I know that if I start my sentence with an adverb such as hardly I must invert the subject and the verb,but do I really need to use only "when" afterwards?.For instance,is

Hardly had I entered the room when the phone rang.

correct and

Hardly had I entered the room that the phone rang.


  • Although "hardly ... when" seems to be the generally accepted form, we can find "hardly ... than" even in some dictionaries, like this one: oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/than?q=than or this one: ldoceonline.com/es-LA/dictionary/no-sooner-hardly-had-than – Gustavson Jan 12 '19 at 15:07
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    @Gustavson You may find hardly than, but not hardly that. It's not clear if it was a typo in the question or not. (Although, of course, this might work: Hardly had I entered the room that had a ringing phone than it stopped ringing.) – Jason Bassford Jan 12 '19 at 15:27
  • @JasonBassford Yes, I know that "hardly ... that" is wrong if "that" is to introduce the second clause in the time sequence. – Gustavson Jan 12 '19 at 15:43
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    @JasonBassford: Sticking even closer to the text as cited, simply follow Hardly had I entered the room that the phone rang with in than it stopped. I'd buy that as syntactically "valid", if a little "awkward". – FumbleFingers Jan 12 '19 at 19:38

"[T]he phone rang" is being used as a temporal specifier. Therefore, "that" is inappropriate, and you should use "when". This is entirely independent of the structure you've chosen for the first part of the sentence, and everything to do with the temporal nature of your specifier.

"Hardly had I [verbed] [...] when [...]" is a perfectly grammatical idiom, but you should be aware that it has an archaic feel. Modern English rarely uses the adverb-auxiliary-subject-verb construction, preferring subject-auxiliary-adverb-verb, thus: "I had hardly entered [...]".

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