Is this usage,"could have hardly been more different ", standard and easy to understand for native English speaker? After reading the blog, Kildall and Gates are probably very different, but Google translate means they are the same except "wonderful hackers".

  • How can two answers get two upvotes with no explanation at all?
    – Lambie
    Mar 20, 2023 at 18:57

4 Answers 4


It's understandable, but the word order seems strange to me.
I think it would be better like this:
"Both were wonderful hackers, but otherwise, they could hardly have been more different."

  • My thoughts exactly The "otherwise" is awkwardly placed and interrupts the flow of the thought. Not saying it's wrong, just needs tweaking to make it clearer.
    – Billy Kerr
    Mar 20, 2023 at 16:30
  • It's the placing of "hardly" which jangled for me. Natural only before "have".
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 20, 2023 at 17:43
  • Is there a rule for the position of "hardly" or anywhere ok?
    – Mr. Wang
    Mar 21, 2023 at 1:47

Yes, it's easily understood by native English speakers.
I means that there was one thing, hacking, that both Kildall and Gates did very well, but otherwise the two men were very different.

  • 2
    You often hear something like 'Both were wonderful hackers, but apart from that, they could have hardly been more different.' Mar 20, 2023 at 15:41

The sentence is grammatically correct, and it effectively conveys the idea that the two individuals are skilled hackers but possess many differences in other aspects.


to hardly be more x
to hardly be less x
to hardly be as x as y

examples with other verbs: can hardly be more different can have hardly been more different may hardly be more different should have hardly been more different

hardly is the same as scarcely here.

Hardly ever, rarely, scarcely, seldom Hardly ever, rarely, scarcely and seldom are frequency adverbs. We can use them to refer to things that almost never happen, or do not happen very often. They have a negative meaning. We use them without not. Rarely, scarcely and seldom are more common in writing than in speaking: Cambridge Dictionary

otherwise is often used comparatively: These tables are black, brown or white. Otherwise, their shape and size is exactly the same.

otherwise= in all other respects

  • Disregard the downvoters, please/
    – Lambie
    Mar 20, 2023 at 18:56

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