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hardly/scarcely...neither/nor....so/too

  Author - Jung Chang

Olga Ivanova from Uzbekistan writes:

If my friend says to me:

I hardly know this author

and if I hardly know her, should I answer:

Neither do I OR So do I?

Are both answers possible here?

 

Roger Woodham replies:

hardly....neither/nor

Only Neither do I or Nor do I is possible here, Olga. This is because hardly has a negative meaning. It means almost not at all. So if you wish to agree with what is being said, you will also need a negative adverb and use neither or nor in response. Note that scarcely has the same negative meaning as hardly and that either of them can be used here. Compare the following:

  • I can hardly / scarcely believe you're twenty years old now. ~ Nor / Neither can I!
  • They're hardly / scarcely ever at home.
    ~ Neither / Nor are we!
  • He's dead now, but I hardly / scarcely knew him.
    ~ Neither / Nor did I.

Note that neither/nor always come at the beginning of the response clause and that inversion of subject and verb are needed with the tense form agreeing with that of the first clause.


 

not either

As an alternative to neither/nor you can also use not either which has the same meaning, but normal word order:

  • She had changed so much. I could hardly /scarcely recognise her. ~ I couldn't either.
  • I've got hardly /scarcely any money left. What about you? ~ I haven't either.
 

neither…nor

Neithernor are used together when we want to link two negative ideas:

  • When I spoke to him, he neither smiled nor looked at me.
  • Neither the chairman nor the treasurer was / were able to attend the meeting.
  • Don't bother preparing dessert because neither Jane nor Julie eat / eats anything sweet.

Note that when singular subjects are connected with neithernor, the verb which follows can be either singular or plural.

   

so / too

When the frequency of occurrence increases from never or hardly ever to occasionally or sometimes, these adverbs give a positive rather than a negative meaning to what is being said. If we wish to agree with statements in a positive way, this is our opportunity to use so or too. Compare the following:

  • I would never work as a shop assistant in a large department store. ~ Neither would I.
  • I could hardly / scarcely understand a word he was saying ~ Nor could your parents.
  • Neither Henry nor Harry is / are coming to Edward's party. ~ I'm not either.
  • They occasionally eat lunch at 'The Blue Parrot'.
    ~ So does Tom. / Tom does too.
  • I sometimes have to work at weekends to get everything done ~ So do we. / We do too.
  • I go to the cinema quite often - twice a week usually.
    ~ Me too. / So do I.
  • She always uses olive oil in her cooking
    ~ So do my Spanish friends / My Spanish friends do too.

Note that the expressions Me too and Me neither, both of which are used in very informal speech, can only be used with first person singular agreement:

  • Look, it's already two o' clock and I haven't done any work today. ~ Me neither.
  • I'm so tired I could sleep for twelve hours. ~ Me too.

If you would like more practice more please visit our Message Board in the You, Me and Us part of our website.

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