Definition of hardly
1 : with force : vigorously
2 : in a severe manner : harshly
3 : with difficulty : painfully
4a —used to emphasize a minimal amount <I hardly knew her> <almost new — hardly a scratch on it>b —used to soften a negative <you can't hardly tell who anyone is — G. B. Shaw>
5 : certainly not <that news is hardly surprising>
Can hardly be used with a negative?
Hardly in sense 5 is used sometimes with not for emphasis <just another day at the office? Not hardly>. In sense 4b with a negative verb (as can't, wouldn't, didn't) it does not make a double negative but softens the negative. In “you can't hardly find a red one,” the sense is that you can find a red one, but only with difficulty; in “you can't find a red one,” the sense is that red ones are simply not available. Use of hardly with a negative verb is a speech form; it is most commonly heard in Southern and Midland speech areas. In other speech areas and in all discursive prose, hardly is normally used with a positive <you can hardly find a red one>.
Examples of hardly in a sentence
It hardly matters what I think.
The changes in service have hardly been noticed.
There are hardly any new features in this software.
Hardly anyone showed up for the meeting.
Hardly a day goes by when I don't think about you.
This is hardly a new idea for a movie.
“Is this a new idea for a movie?” “Hardly! I've seen dozens of movies just like it.”
Before 12th Century
First Known Use of hardly
before 12th century
HARDLY Defined for Kids
Seen and Heard
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