I was editing a piece today that used the word predominately, which didn’t look right to me. I wanted the word to be predominantly, but the MS Word dictionary didn’t seem to have any problem with it. This sent me running to the dictionary to help me sort it out.
The dictionary was zero help. Did I say zero? Yes, zero. They are both words and maybe it’s just me, but I could not parse the difference.
Predominantly: For the most part; MAINLY
Brians Common Errors in English Usage comes to my rescue (again). He explains:
“Predominantly” is formed on the adjective “predominant,” not the verb “predominate”; so though both forms are widely accepted, “predominantly” makes more sense.
And the always helpful World Wide Words explains further:
There’s been a lot of scholarly argument about the relative merits of these two words in the last century or so, most of it directed at the associated adjectives, predominate and predominant. Bryan Garner, in Garner’s Modern American Usage, says that predominate is a needless variant of predominant; good usage requires predominate to be used only as a verb and predominant only as an adjective. At least one earlier usage writer has gone so far as to condemn the adjectival use predominate as illiterate.
History is against the critics. Predominate has been recorded as an adjective since 1591. . . . It’s true that predominantly is much more common than predominately, as predominant is than predominate. However, there is no difference in sense between the pairs and the other forms aren’t wrong, just less often preferred alternatives.
So it seems that while both are correct, we predominately prefer predominantly. Er, don’t we?