Definition of hardly adverb from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//ˈhɑːdli//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈhɑːrdli//
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  1. 1  almost no; almost not; almost none There's hardly any tea left. Hardly anyone has bothered to reply. She hardly ever calls me (= almost never). We hardly know each other. Hardly a day goes by without my thinking of her (= I think of her almost every day). At the time, I hardly spoke any French. There was hardly a cloud in the sky.
  2. 2  used especially after ‘can’ or ‘could’ and before the main verb, to emphasize that it is difficult to do something I can hardly keep my eyes open (= I'm almost falling asleep). I could hardly believe it when I read the letter.
  3. 3  used to say that something has just begun, happened, etc. We can't stop for coffee now, we've hardly started. We had hardly sat down to supper when the phone rang. (formal) Hardly had she spoken than she regretted it bitterly.
  4. 4  used to suggest that something is unlikely or unreasonable or that somebody is silly for saying or doing something He is hardly likely to admit he was wrong. It's hardly surprising she was fired; she never did any work. It's hardly the time to discuss it now. You can hardly expect her to do it for free. ‘Couldn't you have just said no?’ ‘Well, hardly (= of course not), she's my wife's sister.’ He’s 24—hardly a baby. Which Word?hard / hardly The adverb from the adjective hard is hard:I have to work hard today. She has thought very hard about her future plans. It was raining hard outside. Hardly is an adverb meaning ‘almost not’:I hardly ever go to concerts. I can hardly wait for my birthday. It cannot be used instead of hard:I’ve been working hardly today. She has thought very hardly about her future plans. It was raining hardly outside.
Grammar Pointhardly / scarcely / barely / no sooner Hardly, scarcely and barely can all be used to say that something is only just true or possible. They are used with words like any and anyone, with adjectives and verbs, and are often placed between can, could, have, be, etc. and the main part of the verb:They have sold scarcely any copies of the book. I barely recognized her. His words were barely audible. I can hardly believe it. I hardly can believe it. Hardly, scarcely and barely are negative words and should not be used with not or other negatives:I can’t hardly believe it. You can also use hardly, scarcely and barely to say that one thing happens immediately after another:We had hardly/​scarcely/​barely sat down at the table, when the phone rang. In formal, written English, especially in a literary style, these words can be placed at the beginning of the sentence and then the subject and verb are turned around:Hardly/​Scarcely had we sat down at the table, when the phone rang. Note that you usually use when in these sentences, not than. You can also use before:I scarcely had time to ring the bell before the door opened. No sooner can be used in the same way, but is always used with than:No sooner had we sat down at the table than the phone rang. Hardly and scarcely can be used to mean ‘almost never’, but barely is not used in this way:She hardly (ever) sees her parents these days. She barely sees her parents these days.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: hardly