What is the difference between "barely" and " hardly" ?

Is there any real difference in meaning ? are there any contexts in which one works but not the other ? if yes , give examples please.

For example , If I want to say that given a bad translation of a book . Do we say that the book is translated barely or hardly ? or something else ? why ?

  • 2
    neither. "poorly."
    – djechlin
    Jul 22, 2014 at 16:12

2 Answers 2


It depends on a context. They both may mean the same thing in example like this -

He can hardly write = He can barely write

But then, if you check all the meanings for both the words, you may come up with an example where the words cannot be interchanged.

Now, when in case where hardly refers to 'almost never', replacing it with barely may not sound natural.

"I hardly go for a social gathering" over "I barely go for..."

Edit after the question is edited:

Yes, I agree with djechilin (+1), use poorly or badly instead. The book is poorly translated.

  • @MaulikV Considering that you said "This is just a half answer!" to another answer to your question, I think this looks like a 1/6 one. :-) Jul 22, 2014 at 16:39
  • @Maulik V , I can't understand the last example you gave , Could you clarify it more ? What does it mean ? and How are barely and hardly different in this context ?
    – FNH
    Jul 23, 2014 at 0:06
  • @user2444 example simplified.
    – Maulik V
    Jul 23, 2014 at 5:03

They are pretty much synonymous - both mean 'only just'.

You would not use either in the specific example you give regarding the translation of a book. That is because translation is a 'boolean' - either the book is translated or it is not. You can't 'only just' translate something. You would instead say the book was 'badly translated'.

  • "I barely arrived in time."
    – djechlin
    Jul 22, 2014 at 16:12
  • @djechlin , Does "hardly" fit into you example ? that is , Is it ok to say , " I hardly arrived in time" ?
    – FNH
    Jul 23, 2014 at 0:07

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