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Natsumi Mar 5th, 2018 10:46 am

Hardly versus Barely

I came across this paragraph which I had to complete with hardly or barely:

"Building a hotel in the treetops is _______ a new idea, but the concept has blossomed; today you’ll find them everywhere from Massachusetts to China."

Hardly is the correct answer, but I don't understand the reason why Barely is not correct as the dictionary says that hardly and barely are synomyms.

Thank you in advance for your help.

susan53 May 9th, 2018 04:20 am

Re: Hardly versus Barely
Hardly means "almost not" and is always negative in implication. So for example : I could hardly see anything = I could see almost nothing

Barely on the other hand means "only a bit" but is often used to emphasise the positive aspect. So : I could barely see anything = I couldn't see much but I could see a bit.

In my examples, there's not much difference in the actual situation. It's more in the speaker's perception. But if you look at your example you'll see that a positive interpretation doesn't work : the writer definitely means that it's not a new idea. It's hardly a new idea but.. = It's not really a new idea but.. You couldn't paraphrase it as "it's a bit of a new idea but...".

Think about the Phil Collins song Another Day in Paradise, which includes the line - She can't walk but she's trying. You'd probably paraphrase that as She can barely walk rather than She can hardly walk... . With the use of barely the emphasis is placed on the fact that she can walk a bit - not much but a bit. So it places the emphasis on the positive aspect and therefore matches the second part of the line but she's trying.

Hope that helps.

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