It used to be said that when America sneezes, the world catches a cold, but the expression is being increasingly tailored to the rise of China. *Rarely a week passes when some new phenomenon related to the growth of the eastern giant is not remarked upon*. In the globalised economy, fads in the most populous nation can cause seismic shifts elsewhere.”

(1) Can I replace ‘rarely’ with ‘hardly’, ‘seldom', and ’scarcely’ without changing the meaning of the original sentence blocked? (I guess it’s possible)

(2) Is it plausible to say that the original sentence stands grammatical by itself and doesn’t need to be inverted, since the negative word ‘rarely’ is modifying not the verb ‘passes’ but the subject noun ‘a week’?

(3) When I invert the original sentence into

"Rarely does a week pass when some new phenomenon related to the growth of the eastern giant is not remarked upon.",

is it plausible to say there is no virtual difference in meaning except the focused part between the two - the subject noun ‘a week’ stressed in the former(uninverted one) and the verb ‘pass’ stressed in the latter respectively.

(4) Is the uninverted sentence informal style compared to the inverted one?

*source; BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6934709.stm

Would appreciate your responses.

  • The question about the meaning of rarely, hardly, scarcely, etc, should really be a separate question. You should start by looking the words up in a dictionary and seeing if you can perceive a difference (e.g. in what frequency/probability they represent), and ask if you still find it unclear. Well, you should start by searching to see if there is an existing question that asks the same thing.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 12:49
  • Question about "rarely do", which should provide a lot of information on inversion.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 12:51
  • @Stuart F Appreciate your response. The reason why I post this question is the pattern - ’Rarely a week passes ~ ’ is different from your linked one, since my original sentence doesn't need inversion, I think. Would you give me an additional reply for my inquiries especially for (2),(3) above?
    – deepcosmos
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 13:08

3 Answers 3


Both "hardly" and "scarcely" seem to directly modify "a week", and they don't seem to want the inversion with "does". This is despite being classed as adverbs. They seem similar to "almost" in that respect.

I think the "does" inversion is needed with "rarely" and "seldom", in order to connect them to the verb "passes", skipping over the noun "a week".

"Rarely a week passes" and "seldom a week passes" just sound wrong to me.


Syntactically and semantically, all of rarely, scarcely, hardly, seldom are equivalent and interchangeable in OP's context, but idiomatically, only the first two are in common use...

enter image description here

...and so far as I'm concerned, the only slight difference between them is that some people might think scarcely is a bit "dated" or "literary". That's because although it's almost half as common as hardly in OP's exact context, scarcely is extremely rare compared to hardly overall.

Scarcely a day / week / etc. passes [without some event reoccurring] has become a "frozen form" idiomatic usage for some people. But you certainly don't need to learn and use it today, given that hardly became the more common choice over a century ago.

  • What I think is the comment (Neither of them means anything in current English) under that question is incorrect. The answer from Peter is correct in every detail - including the fact that idiomatically, the final 3-word intensifier in the first example (equivalent to definitely, indeed) should be very much so, not very well so. And he very precisely outlines the two possible parsings of so in the second example (does it intensify very well, or does it refer back to a previously-mentioned activity?). You should accept Peter's answer. I doubt you'll get better. Commented Sep 22, 2023 at 11:02

CGEL (page 820) noted that it is possible, for many speakers, to use rarely in front position without triggering subject-auxiliary inversion. It is noticeable that the example in CGEL has a comma after rarely (as opposed to "Rarely does the possum emerge before the dusk").

"Rarely, the possum emerges before dusk."

I found another example in https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2021-11-03/debates/2BE07441-903C-4482-A5F0-B80E33602440/CatchmentBasedApproach%E2%80%99SChalkStreamRestorationStrategy2021?highlight=rarely#contribution-88447094-60AE-4FFB-8277-39A74BC49B62

"Very rarely, you might be lucky to witness the bright blue of a kingfisher coming out of the banks."

With the comma, it seems it's modifying the entire clause.

But with your sentence, I prefer the subject-auxiliary inversion.

  • I think "Rarely, the possum emerges before dusk." is a different case with my original sentence.
    – deepcosmos
    Commented Sep 9, 2023 at 12:14

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