We hardly caught the plane

Can please somebody help me to deal with "hardly"?


A student of mine produced this sentence: "We were in a rush to the airport - we hardly caught the plane." (she meant to say that they almost missed the plane)


My understanding is that "hardly" can't be used in this sense. "We caught the plane with difficulties" or phrasing it something like this is more appropriate.


But hard as I try, I cannot seem to be able to explain to her why "hardy" in her sentence is not correct. Can somebody please come up with a straightforward justification?

Thank you ever so much!
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I'm not sure this will help, melmrv, but I would expect to hear "barely" rather than "hardly" in that sentence: ...we barely caught the plane. = "we almost missed the plane". "Hardly" with that meaning sounds strange to me.
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    In the U.S. (at least in my part of the country), we would more likely say "we barely made the plane" (or "we barely made our flight").

    Unless someone chimes in with a better explanation, you could tell your student not that her sentence is incorrect, but that it isn't colloquial. :eek:
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    "I'd hardly go by plane now, would I? I can't afford the ticket." (I wouldn't be likely to) "I hardly caught the plane did I?- I didn't even go anywhere near the airport".(I wouldn't have been likely to have).

    The above meaning of "hardly" is slightly different, and is what I would expect if I heard "I hardly caught the plane..."
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I hadn't noticed a difference between 'hardly', 'barely', and 'scarcely' before, but this example shows that only 'barely' is applicable when an event either happens or it doesn't. They mean the same when a process has degrees:

    I've barely/hardly/scarcely begun my work. [note perfect tense: "up till now"]
    I've barely/hardly/scarcely read any of the book so far.
    I :tick:barely/:cross:hardly/:cross:scarcely caught the plane. [note simple past tense: completed event]

    There's an 'only' expression that is only used with this sort of event:
    I caught the plane, but only :tick:barely/:cross:hardly/scarcely.
    I've begun my work, but only :cross:barely/hardly/scarcely.
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    I can't tell you why we can't say "hardly" in this context, but I can give a very likely explanation why a Czech/Slovak speaker makes this mistake.
    The construction in Czech is with a word that means "almost", and many dictionaries and grammar books (I'm looking at one now) say that after a negative, you use hardly/scarcely/barely, so:
    She has almost not eaten anything :cross: - she has hardly/scarcely/barely eaten anything :tick:
    It almost hasn't stopped raining all day :cross: - it has hardly/scarely/barely stopped raining all day.:tick:

    Apply that principle to the sentence: "we almost didn't catch the plane" (which is acceptable in English), and you get "we hardly:cross:/scarcely:cross:/barely:tick: caught the plane.

    But why, I don't know.
     
    I can't tell you why we can't say "hardly" in this context, but I can give a very likely explanation why a Czech/Slovak speaker makes this mistake.
    The construction in Czech is with a word that means "almost", and many dictionaries and grammar books (I'm looking at one now) say that after a negative, you use hardly/scarcely/barely, so:
    She has almost not eaten anything :cross: - she has hardly/scarcely/barely eaten anything :tick:
    It almost hasn't stopped raining all day :cross: - it has hardly/scarely/barely stopped raining all day.:tick:

    Apply that principle to the sentence: "we almost didn't catch the plane" (which is acceptable in English), and you get "we hardly:cross:/scarcely:cross:/barely:tick: caught the plane.

    But why, I don't know.
    Exactly! This is exactly what I am fighting with when trying to reason against "hardly" in the student's sentence ... : (
     
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