From Longman Dictionary of Contemporary Englishhardlyhard‧ly /ˈhɑːdli $ ˈhɑːrdli/ ●●● S2 W2 adverb 1 NOTalmost not My parents divorced when I was six, and I hardly knew my father. The children were so excited they could hardly speak. I can hardly believe it. Hardly anyone (=almost no one) writes to me these days. Dad ate hardly anything (=almost nothing). There was hardly any (=very little) traffic. She lives in Spain, so we hardly ever (=almost never) see her.hardly a day/week/month etc goes by without/when (=used to say that something happens almost every day, week etc) Hardly a month goes by without another factory closing down.2 NOTused to mean ‘not’, when you are suggesting that the person you are speaking to will agree with you It’s hardly surprising that she won’t answer his calls after the way he’s treated her. You can hardly blame Tom for not waiting. My boss could hardly be described as handsome.hardly the time/place/person etc (=a very unsuitable time, place, person etc) This is hardly the place to discuss the matter.3 JUST/A MOMENT AGOused to say that something has only just happened The building work has hardly begun.had hardly ... when/before She had hardly sat down when the phone rang.GrammarWord order• Hardly usually comes before a main verb: He hardly said a word.• Hardly comes after the first auxiliary verb: I can hardly believe you said that.We could hardly have known what was going to happen next. ✗Don’t say: I hardly can believe you said that.• Hardly usually comes after the verb ‘be’ when it is used in simple tenses such as ‘is’ or ‘was’: This was hardly surprising.• In writing, you can use hardly at the beginning of a sentence before an auxiliary to say that one thing happens very soon after another thing: Hardly had the rain stopped, when the sun came out. NegativesYou say hardly any: There’s hardly any milk. ✗Don’t say: There’s hardly no milk. Hardly is not the adverb of hard. The adverb of hard is hard: I work hard. ✗Don’t say: I work hardly.
Examples from the Corpushardly• They only won 1-0 - hardly a great victory!• First off, he decided to attack dueling, which was hardly a threat any longer.• He's hardly a world chess champion - you should be able to beat him.• That may be an arresting statement, but it is hardly an exaggerated description of what they did.• All these similarities could hardly be due to chance.• The day had hardly begun, and he felt exhausted already.• You hardly ever hear of hip-hop guys naming themselves after computer hardware.• With two of the office down with chicken-pox, she hardly had time to think these days, let alone relax.• I hardly know the people I'm working with.• But I hardly like to tell you about the disaster that befell Angela within the next few minutes.• He found he could hardly open his eyes.• At least the socket in the tip of her left forefinger hardly showed.• Women were hardly spared that day, either.• It's hardly surprising he's upset, considering the way you've treated him!• This is hardly the ideal time to buy a house.hardly ever• Universities have hardly ever been held in lower esteem.• Many people think museums make lots of money on big shows, but in truth, they hardly ever break even.• She gave cheap advice and charge mini-mum fees, hardly ever collecting on past due accounts.• You know kids who always do their schoolwork and kids who hardly ever do their class and homework assignments.• The charm of it hardly ever fails.• From that day on Bill and Kath have hardly ever thrown anything away.• Theo's occasional complaints, hardly ever voiced directly, were usually muted and so we fail to take note of them.• I hardly ever write letters any more.hardly the time/place/person etc• But then, with a shrug, he went back inside: this was hardly the time for sneering at pillars.• The Oval is hardly the place for such expressions, but Feeleyand the President had a good relationship.had hardly ... when/before• If you ever walked into it, you could hardly breathe when you went beyond the door.• Poor Susan, she went West with her husband and it was hardly three months before he was killed.• The hung from the rafters and hardly stirred when I walked beneath.• The overall tone is warm and woody - hardly surprising when you consider the sheer mass of wood involved!• They hardly notice when I walk up with the General who has chosen my horse already and his name is Dancing Dan.• They are a small group, hardly viable when the story begins.• They can hardly be surprised when others make use of this representation rather than the narrower and more qualified one.• However, I had hardly got started before I got the first complaint.