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Hardly ever, rarely, scarcely, seldom


from English Grammar Today

Frequency adverbs meaning ‘not very often’

Hardly ever, rarely, scarcely and seldom are frequency adverbs. We can use them to
refer to things that almost never happen, or do not happen very often. They have a
negative meaning. We use them without not. Rarely, scarcely and seldom are more
common in writing than in speaking:

He hardly ever smiles.

[a trout is a type of fish]

Providing fresh trout for dinner was rarelya problem.

She scarcely saw her grandchildren.

Griffin, the physics teacher, seldomshouted.

Hardly and scarcely meaning ‘almost not at all’

Hardly and scarcely can mean ‘almost not at all’ or ‘only just’. Hardly is much more
common than scarcely, and scarcely is more formal:

Jen was so tired. She could scarcely keep her eyes open.

I hardly know them. I’ve only met them once.


Word order

We usually put these adverbs in mid position, between the subject and main verb, after
the modal verb or first auxiliary verb, or after main verb be. In more formal styles, we put
them in front position and invert the subject and verb. If there is no auxiliary or modal
verb, we use do/does/did.

Compare

neutral formal

Hardly
She hardly
ever did
everwent on
she go on
holiday.
holiday.

Seldomhad
I
I seen so
had seldomseen
many
so many people
people out
out on the
on the
streets.
streets.

Rarelyare
Things things as
are rarely as bad as you
bad as you think
think they’re they’re
going to be. going to
be.

See also:
 Often
 Sometimes or sometime?
 Never or not … ever?
In more formal styles, to refer to something happening immediately after something else,
we use scarcely/hardly … when. We move hardly and scarcely to front position and invert
the subject and verb:

Scarcely [V]had [S]I got myself comfortable and closed my eyes when I heard the sound
of the alarm.

See also:
 Hardly
(“Hardly ever, rarely, scarcely, seldom” from English Grammar Today © Cambridge University Press.)

Table of contents
 Adjectives and adverbs
o about adjectives and adverbs
o adjectives
o adjective and adverb phrases
o common adverbs
o comparatives and superlatives
o adverbs of degree
o adverbs of place and movement
o adverbs of time and frequency
 About
 Ago
 Already
 Always
 Early
 Ever
 Hardly ever, rarely, scarcely, seldom
 Next
 No longer, not any longer
 No more, not any more
 Now
 Often
 Once as an adverb
 Soon
 Still
 Then
 Usually
 Easily confused words
 Nouns, pronouns and determiners
 Prepositions and particles
 Words, sentences and clauses
 Using English
 Verbs
Blog
I’ve searched everywhere! (Words and phrases for looking for things)
February 07, 2018
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© Cambridge University Press 2018

Cambridge Dictionary

 Dictionary
 Translate
 Grammar
Log in

MenuCambridge Dictionary

Search TermSearch

Hardly ever, rarely, scarcely, seldom


from English Grammar Today
Frequency adverbs meaning ‘not very often’

Hardly ever, rarely, scarcely and seldom are frequency adverbs. We can use them to
refer to things that almost never happen, or do not happen very often. They have a
negative meaning. We use them without not. Rarely, scarcely and seldom are more
common in writing than in speaking:

He hardly ever smiles.

[a trout is a type of fish]

Providing fresh trout for dinner was rarelya problem.

She scarcely saw her grandchildren.

Griffin, the physics teacher, seldomshouted.

Hardly and scarcely meaning ‘almost not at all’

Hardly and scarcely can mean ‘almost not at all’ or ‘only just’. Hardly is much more
common than scarcely, and scarcely is more formal:

Jen was so tired. She could scarcely keep her eyes open.

I hardly know them. I’ve only met them once.

Word order

We usually put these adverbs in mid position, between the subject and main verb, after
the modal verb or first auxiliary verb, or after main verb be. In more formal styles, we put
them in front position and invert the subject and verb. If there is no auxiliary or modal
verb, we use do/does/did.

Compare
neutral formal

Hardly
She hardly
ever did
everwent on
she go on
holiday.
holiday.

Seldomhad
I
I seen so
had seldomseen
many
so many people
people out
out on the
on the
streets.
streets.

Rarelyare
Things things as
are rarely as bad as you
bad as you think
think they’re they’re
going to be. going to
be.

See also:
 Often
 Sometimes or sometime?
 Never or not … ever?
In more formal styles, to refer to something happening immediately after something else,
we use scarcely/hardly … when. We move hardly and scarcely to front position and invert
the subject and verb:

Scarcely [V]had [S]I got myself comfortable and closed my eyes when I heard the sound
of the alarm.

See also:
 Hardly
(“Hardly ever, rarely, scarcely, seldom” from English Grammar Today © Cambridge University Press.)
Table of contents
 Adjectives and adverbs
o about adjectives and adverbs
o adjectives
o adjective and adverb phrases
o common adverbs
o comparatives and superlatives
o adverbs of degree
o adverbs of place and movement
o adverbs of time and frequency
 About
 Ago
 Already
 Always
 Early
 Ever
 Hardly ever, rarely, scarcely, seldom
 Next
 No longer, not any longer
 No more, not any more
 Now
 Often
 Once as an adverb
 Soon
 Still
 Then
 Usually
 Easily confused words
 Nouns, pronouns and determiners
 Prepositions and particles
 Words, sentences and clauses
 Using English
 Verbs
Blog
I’ve searched everywhere! (Words and phrases for looking for things)
February 07, 2018
Read More
Dictionary apps

Browse our dictionary apps today and ensure you are never again lost for words.

 Learn
 Develop
 About
2.32 mLikes154 kFollowersN/CFans

© Cambridge University Press 2018