are not quite interchangeable as they stand, but need some modification
first of all. If we add ever to hardly to arrive at
hardly ever, then this is synonymous with rarely and
also with seldom.
adverbs describe how frequently or regularly something happens.
Thus along a spectrum of frequency, starting with most frequent
and ending with least frequent, we might find the following:
doctor…. I always have two meat rolls for breakfast. Without
fail. Every day.
usually have poached eggs on toast at the weekend.
every weekend. But most weekends.
often / frequently have two chocolate biscuits or a pastry
with my morning coffee. Not every day. But most days, I have to
I sometimes have a brandy with my coffee after
lunch. After a particularly good lunch.
hardly ever / rarely / seldom eat a full English
breakfast. Once every two months perhaps.
never drink coffee after 7 p.m. Always tea. So what
do you think is causing the high blood pressure?
that hardly ever, rarely and seldom equate
with occasionally or very occasionally in terms of frequency, but
that when you use hardly ever, etc, you are putting a negative
gloss on what you are saying. Occasionally sounds much more
positive. Compare the following:
occasionally see my daughter when I'm up in London. If
she's free, around lunchtime.
hardly ever see my daughter. She's far too busy to find
time for me.
as an adverb by itself, means only just, and equates with
barely and scarcely.
could hardly walk but already knew how to swim.
barely / hardly / scarcely knew Jack, although
I know he was a great friend of John's.
had barely / hardly / scarcely finished dinner
when they arrived.
+ any (+ -one/-thing)
any means very little or very few and is the opposite of plenty
of, or colloquially, loads of. Note again the negative
tone in which it is used:
got plenty of friends, but hardly any money.
knew hardly anybody at the party, but Katie knew loads
of people, nearly everybody in fact.
worth hardly anything - practically nothing! Just a few
hardly said anything to anybody since the accident.
He's said hardly anything to anybody since the accident.