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Hard vs. Hardly

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Common mistakes

  1. (NG) He works hardly, so the boss is happy.
    1. (OK) He works hard, so the boss is happy.
  2. (NG) He is a hardly worker.
    1. (OK) He is such a hard worker.

Grammar words and phrases in context

It snowed hard last night, which is unusual because it hardly snows here where I live. I think it must be hard to live in an area that gets a lot of snow. You’re constantly having to shovel snow and scrape the hard ice from the windows of your car.

Many adjectives become an adverb by adding ly and the meaning basically stays the same:

  1. Tommy is a quick runner….He runs quickly
  2. Jack is a slow worker….He works slowly.

Hard (Adjective)

Hard is an exception to the above rule. Hard is used as both an adjective and an adverb, but the meanings of hard as an adjective, and the meanings of the adverbs hard and hardly are different from each other.

As an adjective, hard has basically two meanings. First, hard means solid, firm, or not soft:

  1. The sofa is soft, but the table is hard.
  2. The bread became hard because I forgot to put it in a plastic bag.
  3. I think this steel is too hard to drill through.

In addition, the adjective hard means difficult:

  1. It was a hard exam, but I was able to get a good score.
  2. Having a pet is hard work, but I love my dog.
  3. Jack’s wife was cheating on him. That’s a hard situation to deal with.

 Hard (Adverb)

Hard is also used as an adverb that means with a great deal of effort or strongly. As an adverb, hard comes after the verb.

  1. It was raining hard all afternoon.
  2. Nick works hard every day in his office.
  3. If you study hard, you will be able to speak English well!

Hardly (Adverb)

We also have the adverb hardly, but as an adverb, the meaning is different from the other meanings. The adverb hardly means almost not or barely.

  1. Jack hardly worked at all today.
  2. I hardly studied for the exam.
  3. Jenny has the flu, so she hardly ate anything.