The following construction is considered nonstandard in English

Nowadays, hardly someone studies ancient Greek.

It should be

Nowadays, hardly anyone studies ancient Greek. enter image description here

And although the sentence below is positive, the determiner some should not be used.

She's been dieting since August, but she's hardly lost some weight.

Instead, the correct formula is:

She's been dieting since August, but she's hardly lost any weight. enter image description here

I think the explanation is that hardly carries a negative meaning, so in English any, and its composites (anyone, anything, anywhere etc.) is preferred.

Short Rule

English Cambridge Dictionary has a short sweet excerpt

Hardly any, hardly ever

We often use hardly before any, anyone, anybody, anything and ever in negative clauses, but not before no, none, no one, nobody, nothing or never:

At first, hardly anyone came. (almost no one came)

Not: At first hardly no one came.

There was hardly anything to eat.

She lives in Scotland so we hardly ever see her now, but I like to keep in touch.

Grammar books will recite that any (when it is a quantifier) is usually used in negative and question forms, but in positive sentences, such as; "I don't mind, anyone can come and visit" and "Anyone can boil an egg", the word anyone means "it does not matter who" or "everyone".

The exception that proves the rule (?)

However in the following two examples:

  1. It's hardly someone's fault, is it?
  2. It's hardly anyone's fault, is it?

I don't find No.1 to be ungrammatical or nonstandard. I'm sure I've read this type of remark many times in my lifetime.

  • Is sentence No.1 acceptable, and grammatical?

A user in the comments suggested that the first version is preferable, and:

In #1 (which is grammatical) what is being negated is the idea that someone is to blame: hardly {somebody's fault}

and also

If the intended meaning is "It was an accident or an Act of God and no person is to blame for it, and to seek to blame someone would be unfair" then "It's hardly someone's fault" is idiomatic. Or "it's nobody's fault" @Tromano

  • Is the first sentence considered; informal, nonstandard or ungrammatical by grammarians?

  • What is the difference in meaning between the two sentences?

  • I looked in the archives but I didn't find anything there that answered my question. – Mari-Lou A Oct 10 '16 at 10:39

You ask, essentially:

  1. It's hardly someone's fault, is it?
  2. It's hardly anyone's fault, is it?

Is sentence No.1 acceptable, and grammatical?

What is the difference in meaning between the two sentences?

Yes, #1 is acceptable and grammatical when used in the appropriate context.

Here are a couple of examples of the phrases used appropriately (emphasis, mine):

  • It is hardly someone’s fault if one has good looks. - Imbrogli from Così fan tutte

  • ... all in all the worst part of my stay was my view, which wasn't spectacular but hardly anyone's fault! - Roger P

The phrase "hardly someone's fault" is applied to a referenced individual (though spoken about in a generic manner) to say that it isn't their own fault, while "hardly anyone's fault" is applied to a situation in which one would be hard pressed to fault anybody.

Put another way, "hardly someone's fault" identifies a person who is then absolved, while "hardly anyone's fault" doesn't identify anyone.

    It's hardly someone's fault, is it?
    It's hardly anyone's fault, is it?

are both grammatical but they mean different things.

The first means that no one is to blame. The second means that only a very few people are to blame.


I interpret "It's hardly someone's fault, is it?" as "It can hardly be said, can it, that it is someone's fault". "Hardly" doesn't modify "someone", it modifies the whole clause. Compare

"A person whose emotions fluctuate with every small shift of events is hardly someone who can remain calm." -- Steven Simpson, The Leader who is Hardly Known: Self-less Teaching from the Chinese Tradition, 2003

That is, it can hardly be said that a person ... is someone who can remain calm.

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