Confusing words: hard and hardly

tumblr_ls8iqtkbqK1qc9ailo1_500The words ‘hard’ and ‘hardly’ get often mixed up. Some students think that  ‘hardly’ is the adverb for the adjective ‘hard’ but that’s not the case.

The adverb for the adjective ‘hard’ is simply ‘hard’. Have a look at these examples:

The exam was very hard. (adjective: hard=difficult)
I worked very hard to pass my exams. (adverb: to work hard= to put a lot of effort)


When used with words like ‘anything’, ‘anyone’ etc  ‘hardly’ means ‘almost nothing‘, ‘almost no one‘:
He hardly said anything at the meeting >> he almost said nothing at the meeting
Hardly anyone talked to me at the party >> almost no one talked to me

Notice that ‘anything’ and ‘anyone’ are used in the above examples because ‘hardly’ is a negative word and English doesn’t allow double negatives:

He hardly said nothing anything at the meeting

Generally speaking ‘hardly’ makes a sentence (almost) negative:
She hardly speaks French >> She almost speaks no French (or She speaks very very little French)
I can hardly understand British people when they speak >> I almost don’t understand them (or I understand very very little)

Notice the adverb position: ‘hardly’ comes before the main verb (speak) but after modals (can).


‘Hardly ever’ is used when talking about the frequency of an action and it means ‘almost never‘:

I hardly ever go the gym = I almost never go to the gym (or I very rarely go to the gym)
I hardly ever see him nowadays = I almost never see him nowadays (or I very rarely see him)

So pay attention when talking about how hard you’ve worked as you might end up saying quite the opposite:

I’ve worked really hard= I’ve really put a lot of effort / I’ve worked a lot
I’ve hardly worked= I’ve put almost no effort / I’ve worked very little

Notice the adverb position: hardly goes just after the auxiliary ‘have’.

Hope this post has shed some light on the difference between ‘hard’ and ‘hardly’!
Talk soon,