Hardly had I arrived THAN or WHEN?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by maferaluz, Dec 13, 2012.

  1. maferaluz Senior Member

    Mojácar, Spain

    I´m a bit confused about the use of WHEN or THAN with "HARDLY"

    "Hardly had I arrived than/ when it started to rain".

    Can I use both? or only WHEN is possible?

    Thanks in advance
  2. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    You can use both - there is little real difference. One incident<no break>another incident

    Than provides a form of contrast between two events
    When is obviously related to time.
  3. maferaluz Senior Member

    Mojácar, Spain
    Thank you PaulQ for having explained it so clearly!

  4. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I would use when, or change hardly to no sooner.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2012
  5. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    It seems to me that with "Hardly...", the more suitable conjunction is "when".
    The basic use of "than" is in comparisons, so it seems more suitable with "No sooner...".
  6. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    Certainly, removing the inversion would render use of 'than' impossible ... which makes me wonder why it's okay with the inversion. It's difficult to get good data on this; its usage rare.
    Trawling through the corpora, I managed to turn up only one example, and that was of the 'Hardly had I arrived than...' sort. I think I would tend to favour the 'when' variety.
  7. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    It seems a clear case if we consider the meaning of the terms.

    (1) 'Than' is a comparative conjunction which looks back to a preceding term which is also comparative.
    'No sooner' is a comparative term which looks forward to the comparative 'than' following it.

    Each is incomplete without the other. Therefore they need to go together:
    (a) 'No sooner had I arrived than it started to rain'.

    (2) 'When' here is a relative conjunction of time, which relates properly to an expression of time, but not one of comparison.
    'Hardly had [something happened]' is an expression of time, but not comparison, indicating the moment after the event.

    Therefore these two naturally go together:
    (b) 'Hardly had I arrived when it started to rain'.

    Each of these paired expressions makes sense as shown here, but not if their elements are mixed up.
    There is a slight difference in meaning.
    Sentence (a) makes the two events simultaneous. Sentence (b) makes the second event happen a moment later than the first.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2012
  8. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    This is a clear case of hybrid formation. The logical sentences, as others have pointed out, are "No sooner... than" and "Hardly... when".
    One then substitutes the other and there's an interchange of bits and pieces.

    Hardly had I arrived than... is not logical, but to my ear it doesn't sound so bad. I might say it but I wouldn't write it.
  9. maferaluz Senior Member

    Mojácar, Spain
    Thank you everyone for your answers. They have helped me understand that even native speakers don´t agree on this point. I have a couple of picky students who will ask me lots of questions regarding this matter and I have to be prepared to give them a convincing answer.

    Beryl, I have found several instances with "than" and "when", even in dictionaries. This example belongs to the Macmillan Dictionary:

    hardly had...than/when:
    Hardly had the men started training than they were sent into battle

    Some others can be:

    Hardly had
    we settled down in our seats than/when the lights went out

    Hardly had we set hoe to ground in our last despairing effort than we made a discovery that far exceeded our wildest dreams.
    Hardly had I arrived on the work next morning (November 4) than the unusual silence, due to the stoppage of the work, made me realize that something out of the ordinary had happened.

    But I do thank you for your help.

    Last edited: Dec 14, 2012

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