Why does

I worked hardly.

sound so wrong and

I hardly worked.

is the only correct (or at least idiomatic) expression.


I worked quickly.

is correct this time and

I quickly worked.

sounds weird ("I quickly worked through it" is kind of correct? but "I worked through it quickly" sounds better)

What's the name of this phenomenon? Both hardly and quickly are adverbs but must be attached in different orders.

  • It would almost certainly be "migrated" soon anyway. But the "name" of the syntactic phenomenon is adverb preposition / postposition (or just adverb position), if that's all you wanted to know. Oct 17, 2022 at 16:52
  • 1
    [correction: I worked very hard; hardly does not mean very hard. Please look it up] I worked very hard. I worked quickly. They both come after the verb.
    – Lambie
    Oct 17, 2022 at 17:15

1 Answer 1


That’s because hardly is hardly an adverb. It’s instead a negative, just like not, and negatives go before the verb in modern English.

But that’s just part of it. Being a negative, hardly therefore follows the same special and complex syntactic rules attached to all negatives. So do scarcely, barely, little.

That’s why the first of these is ungrammatical in standard English:

  1. He has ❌not hardly started yet.
  2. He has ✅not started yet.
  3. He has ✅hardly started yet.

The actual adverbial use the OED today considers rare and archaic. Their only citation for using it as an adverb of manner in the past century is this one:

a1973 J. R. R. Tolkien Silmarillion (1977) 273
Isildur came at last hardly back to Rómenna and delivered the fruit to the hands of Amandil.

About its negative use, they redirect you to a note at barely, which reads:

The adverb qualifies verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and adverbial phrases, and esp. numerals (nouns, adjectives, and adverbs), designations of quantity, and indefinite pronouns. In many cases it may most correctly be regarded as qualifying the whole predication, though placed in proximity to the word in the sentence to which the qualification chiefly relates.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .