Do You Need a Comma With 'HARDLY' or 'HARDLY EVER'?

We do not generally use a comma before or after “hardly ever”, or “hardly”, to separate the adverb from the word it describes.

We do not generally use a comma before or after “hardly ever”, or “hardly”, to separate the adverb from the word it describes.

My sister hardly ever eats spicy food.

I can hardly believe you did it.

1. Differences Between ‘Hardly ever’ and ‘Hardly’

Hardly ever” is an adverb of frequency that we commonly use to say “almost never” or “very seldom”.

I hardly ever drink coffee before bed.

Hardly” is an adverb of degree that we use to express that something is almost not true or almost does not happen at all.

I hardly know the people who live in my own building.

Both are negative adverbs and cannot be used with other negative words in a sentence.

I hardly know them.

I don’t hardly know them.

2. Commas Before or After ‘Hardly ever’

Hardly ever” is typically placed before the main verb, between the auxiliary and the main verb, or after the verb to be.

She hardly ever smiles.

I have hardly ever thought about her since she left.

I am hardly ever late.

We do not generally use a comma before or after “hardly ever”.

He hardly ever asks for money.

In very formal language, you can start a sentence with “hardly ever”. When we do this, we put the verb before the subject. No comma is necessary after the adverb.

Hardly ever are things as bad as you think they’re going to be.

Hardly ever things are as bad as you think they’re going to be.

3. Commas With ‘Hardly’

Similarly, the adverb of degree “hardly” is normally placed before the main verb, after the modal or auxiliary verb, or after the verb to be. No comma is necessary in these situations.

Olivia hardly spoke except to say hello.

I can hardly breathe.

The relationship between the two entities is hardly causal.

We can also use “hardly” at the start of a sentence in very formal situations or literary language. In this case we also use inversion; that is, we put the auxiliary or modal verb in front of the subject.

Hardly had he begun to speak when Claire decided to interrupt the conversation to talk about herself.

If there is no auxiliary or modal verb, we use do/does/did.

Hardly did she know what to say in a situation like this.

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