hardly - definition and synonyms


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Hardly is a negative word and is often used with words like ‘any’ and ‘ever’, but it should not be used with other negative words: We hardly ever do anything interesting.
Hardly comes before the main verb of a sentence, but when there is a modal or auxiliary verb, hardly usually comes after it: I can hardly breathe.You have hardly done any work.
In stories and in formal English, hardly is sometimes used at the beginning of a sentence before an auxiliary verb: Hardly had she begun to speak, when there was a shout from the back of the hall.
Hardly is not related to the word ‘hard’.
  1. 1
    used for saying that something is almost not true or almost does not happen at all

    He hardly spoke except to say hello.

    Alice was so busy she hardly noticed the days pass by.

    can hardly do something:

    We could hardly afford to pay the rent.

    hardly...at all:

    The countryside around Stowe has hardly changed at all.

    1. a.
      used before words such as ‘ever’, ‘any’, ‘anyone’, or ‘anything’ to mean ‘almost never’, ‘almost none’, ‘almost no one’ etc

      There was hardly any wind, just a slight breeze.

      You’ve hardly eaten anything.

      It hardly ever rains here in the summer.

    2. b.
      used for saying that something is very little more or less than something

      The region’s wine industry is hardly more than 40 years old.

      London is hardly an hour by train.

  2. 2
    used for saying that something had only just happened when something else happened

    She had hardly arrived when she started talking about leaving again.

    hardly had...than/when:

    Hardly had the men started training than they were sent into battle.

  3. 3
    used when you think it is obvious that something is not true, not possible, not surprising etc

    It’s hardly surprising that people are starting to complain.

    David’s almost twenty-four – hardly a child.

    This is hardly the time to start discussing finances.

    you can hardly expect/blame etc (=it would not be reasonable to expect, blame etc):

    You can hardly expect Myra to welcome you back after the way you’ve treated her.

  4. 4
    British spoken used for answering ‘no’, when you think someone has suggested something that is impossible

    ‘Are you hung over?’ ‘Hardly! I don’t even drink!’