Hardly had he played for several minutes when he began to whine.

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stephenlearner

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,

Mom told Kevin to practice the piano. Hardly had he played for several minutes when he began to whine. He complained he was tired and wanted to stop.
Mom told Kevin to practice the piano. Hardly had he been playing for several minutes when he began to whine. He complained he was tired and wanted to stop.

Are the two bold clauses correct?

Thanks a lot.
 
  • Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    The "hardly had he" construction doesn't work well here at all, in my view, not even when "several" is changed to "many".
    There is not even any good reason to use the dramatic "hardly had he" instead of the more orthodox "he had hardly".

    I'd be inclined to rewrite it as "He had only XXX for a few minutes when ...". The XXX can be replaced with either "played" or "been playing", and I too prefer the latter. The "only" can also change position: "He had XXX for only a few...".
     

    stephenlearner

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I'd be inclined to rewrite it as "He had only XXX for a few minutes when ...". The XXX can be replaced with either "played" or "been playing", and I too prefer the latter. The "only" can also change position: "He had XXX for only a few...".
    Thank you. I'll follow your instruction.


    But I'd like to know why you change "several" to "many".
    Neither is correct, but that is because of the word "several". If you replace it with "many", then both are correct. I think I prefer the second.
    Is it because "hardly" mean "almost not"? So "hardly... many" means "almost not many“?
    But "hardly" also means "only just". Please see Wordreference Dictionary hardly - WordReference.com Dictionary of English
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    Is it because "hardly" mean "almost not"? So "hardly... many" means "almost not many“?
    But "hardly" also means "only just".
    I think in the context of "hardly + many", the closest meaning in that dictionary is "scarcely". The meaning is stronger than "almost not", closer to "not at all". The idea is that he had not been playing for very long; he had not been playing for very many minutes. This doesn't work with "several" because, unlike "many", "several" does not have an obvious identifiable opposite. It's not at all clear what "not several" would mean.
     
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