Definition of hardly in English:



  • 1Scarcely (used to qualify a statement by saying that it is true to an insignificant degree)

    ‘the little house in which he lived was hardly bigger than a hut’
    ‘a thing hardly bigger than a credit card’
    ‘we hardly know each other’
    • ‘His mother, Francis Fiddler, was so stunned by the news last night that she could hardly believe it was true.’
    • ‘It all seemed like a mad dream that couldn't possibly be true but also could hardly be otherwise, and Sophia couldn't escape it.’
    • ‘As time went by, a subtle change began to overtake her, transforming her by degrees into another person hardly recognizable to her children.’
    • ‘Looking at Qin Yi's wrinkle-free face and her smooth, white complexion, one can hardly guess her true age.’
    • ‘Although I knew that technically wasn't true because I had hardly been there for her since Danny died.’
    • ‘Now, Sara and I hardly qualify as informed critics of modern television.’
    • ‘The short multi-party history, however, shows that this desire hardly comes true and is never realized for long.’
    • ‘If Judas were among the saved, these statements could hardly be true.’
    • ‘Sorry, I have to go, and this hardly even qualifies as a post, back later…’
    • ‘Like a true Melbourne audience hardly anyone at all got up to flee from the rain.’
    • ‘The next two decades saw a blossoming of academic philosophy on a scale hardly imaginable just a short time earlier.’
    • ‘I wasn't always a Bowie fan, and, to be honest, I'm hardly qualified to call myself one today.’
    • ‘Frans Snyders's Concert of Birds hardly qualifies even as second-rate.’
    • ‘Perhaps this is why beauty hardly qualifies as an aesthetic category any more.’
    • ‘Rather and company may have been fed phony documents, but the basic story is obviously true and hardly disputed.’
    • ‘Even that hardly ensures true objectivity - whatever that is - but it's probably the best we can hope for.’
    • ‘A degree in theatre arts hardly qualifies me as a nutritionist or a psychologist.’
    • ‘To those who read the early version of this, yes its true I can hardly think nor spell today.’
    • ‘If true, it's hardly inspirational to the troops.’
    • ‘It is true hardly anyone waits a year for surgery any more but the average wait is still 49 days, compared with 43 in 1999.’
    scarcely, barely, only just, not much, faintly, narrowly, slightly, rarely, little
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    1. 1.1Only a very short time before.
      ‘the party had hardly started when the police arrived’
      • ‘I mean, a person can hardly sit down today without a movie or without music or something going on.’
      • ‘Kitano had hardly sat foot in Venice, before a invitation only press screening and later the same day the first public screening took place.’
      • ‘The reforms of the NHS may have tested his ability to carry the party with him but they have hardly begun.’
      • ‘He had hardly sat down and received his fork before starting to wolf down her home-cooked meal.’
      • ‘We can hardly sit down in the food court without at least one group of girls coming over and asking for our numbers or telling us we were cute.’
      • ‘Southwell had hardly sat down when the price was being paid, with Jerry Flannery on the tail end of an irresistible maul.’
      • ‘She wanted so badly to go to this strange man and his lessons that she could hardly sit down without getting up a second later.’
    2. 1.2Only with great difficulty.
      ‘she could hardly sit up’
      ‘I nodded, hardly able to breath’
      • ‘We could hardly eat, never sit still, and chattered endlessly about the hopes and possibilities for Christmas Day.’
      • ‘Now the 15-year-old club-mates can hardly bear to sit and watch the Games at home on television.’
      • ‘She was so worn out she could hardly see straight, but she couldn't take her eyes from the stars.’
      • ‘Barrie Rutter is in his element as a Sir John whose artificial belly means he can hardly get up or sit down, yet is always ready to caper at a lady.’
      • ‘By the time I got there, the rhythm section were the only ones left and hardly able to see straight.’
      • ‘We could hardly keep our faces straight and some of the musicians at the back desks laughed behind their music wholeheartedly.’
      • ‘She gets a terrible pain every time she tries to walk, and yet she is very restless, and can hardly stand to sit still.’
      • ‘Michael was hardly able to think straight as he started to feel the effects of the pills, his vision foggy, and his mind a total mess.’
      • ‘I walk to the old chair that hardly still stands and sit down.’
      • ‘Employees can hardly sit, idly waiting for new work to come along.’
      • ‘Like a child with a new toy, his spirit rose with each idea the group generated until he could hardly sit in his chair.’
      • ‘I could hardly sit down the whole of the next day.’
      • ‘How on earth can someone who can hardly stand up straight be expected to work out how drunk they are and then decide how to get themselves home on the basis of that?’
      • ‘I've ridden bikes for years, but nothing compares to this pain - I've hardly sat down for days.’
      • ‘I could hardly see even straight ahead - the netting was against my eyes, so that I couldn't ignore it.’
      • ‘By lunch I could hardly sit still, I was on this crazy sugar rush that couldn't be contained.’
      • ‘She could hardly think straight as the sleepiness overwhelmed her.’
      • ‘I could hardly stand it, sitting around another hour or so with the adults.’
      • ‘I staggered around in my kitchen for a few minutes holding my gut while I laughed because I could hardly sit on my chair!’
      • ‘I can hardly sit on it without squeaks of joy… and I really dig the lamp they paired it with.’
      only with difficulty, barely, scarcely, only with effort, only just, almost not
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    3. 1.3No or not (suggesting surprise at or disagreement with a statement)
      ‘I hardly think so’
      • ‘But the maxim that you can fall in love at any age could hardly be more true than for James Foster and Barbara Scott.’
      • ‘Still, at 58 degrees, that was hardly bath water lapping onto the sand near SeaWalk Pavilion.’
      • ‘It may be reasonable, but it hardly qualifies as a competent choice, even if it is successful.’
      • ‘While there is nothing objectionable about such sponsorship, it hardly qualifies as community involvement.’
      • ‘The surly behaviour of the United camp to the foreign media has hardly qualified as a charm offensive on either front.’
      • ‘Writing and ranting that is neither clever nor funny hardly qualifies as banter.’
      • ‘The casting of a man in the role of Miss Pink had no apparent intended significance, yet it could hardly be insignificant.’
      • ‘Nonetheless, despite the seemingly narrow focus, this outline is hardly insignificant.’
      • ‘Some bloggers don't write very well, but that hardly qualifies as poetry.’
      • ‘It looked enormous, and even if you accept the police figure for some obscure reason, 45,000 is hardly an insignificant number.’
      • ‘Now, I think we can all agree that one of the closest elections in history can hardly qualify as a blowout.’
      • ‘The binding nature of the court's legal opinion is hardly a matter of true concern for Zionists.’
      • ‘True, he was hardly put under pressure at the back but at least he busied himself around the field and was a particular threat up front.’
      • ‘A rushed survey with a very small participation rate hardly qualifies as full consultation.’
      • ‘Even if true, that hardly proves the point that we should continue to turn a blind eye to those who are cheating the system.’
      • ‘That was, in many ways true, but it hardly justifies colonization.’
      • ‘Bomb making and inciting riots hardly qualify as youthful follies.’
      • ‘True, she is hardly a representative working mum - whatever that might be.’
      • ‘This sort of thing is rampant in the public sector though so hardly qualifies as news.’
      • ‘If it's true this was hardly a classic, it was a no holds barred derby with the occasional touch of class.’
      • ‘In sharp contrast, across the mass-media landscape, average workers hardly qualify as noble.’
      • ‘The ‘big fat’ series hardly qualifies as reality, nor does Survivor, for that matter!’
      • ‘Now being a Texas resident for the past five years might make me a citizen of the state, but it hardly qualifies me as a true Texan.’
      • ‘But that's hardly a true picture of what was available in that much-maligned decade.’
      • ‘I think it's a salutory consequence, hardly insignificant, but it's not Job One.’
      • ‘The higher ups never really considered the pressure they'd heaped on her but what I did hardly qualified as heroism.’
      • ‘That hardly qualifies as an irrational act of an immoderate president.’
      • ‘Many do drink to excess on special occasions, but this hardly qualifies as dangerous binging.’
      • ‘Kennedy is fully entitled to conduct his crusade to humble the medical profession, but this level of zeal hardly qualifies him for the conduct of a public inquiry.’
      • ‘A person who is in the throes of an addiction is hardly qualified to make that decision.’
      • ‘But these murderers are hardly qualified to judge what is a ‘hate crime’ and what is not.’
      • ‘University administrators worry that too many students pursue business degrees, hardly a path of activism.’
  • 2archaic Harshly.

    ‘the rule worked hardly’


Words like hardly, scarcely, and rarely should not be used with negative constructions. Thus, it is correct to say I can hardly wait but incorrect to say I can't hardly wait. This is because adverbs like hardly are treated as if they were negatives, and it is a well-known grammatical rule of standard English that double negatives (i.e. in this case having hardly and not in the same clause) are not acceptable. Words like hardly behave as negatives in other respects as well, as for example in combining with words like any or at all, which normally only occur where a negative is present (thus, standard usage is I've got hardly any money but not I've got any money). See also double negative