Adverbs “hard” and “hardly”: What’s the difference?

Look at the examples below. Can you tell the difference in meaning between these words?

Athletes running
These guys are running hard.
Out-of-shape manThis guy hardly runs.
Rain pouring down Here, it’s raining hard. Desert scene Here, it hardly rains.
Woman studyingOn the weekends, she studies hard. Woman drinking champagneOn the weekends, she hardly studies.
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The adverb “hard” intensifies the verb. It means “a lot” or “with great energy & determination.”

It follows the verb.

  • He works hard. He should be promoted.
  • She trains hard before a competition. She really wants to win.

In contrast, the adverb “hardly” tells you “almost never” about a verb or “almost not at all” about an adjective.

It precedes a verb in the simple past & present and comes after the helping verb in other tenses. It precedes any adjective it modifies.

  • He has hardly shown up for class this term. He’s going to fail.
  • Don’t be so lazy! You are hardly trying. Why not?
  • It’s hardly polite to burp in public. If you do so, you have hardly any manners.
  • We hardly slept last night.

Look at the pictures below. Make a sentence with either hard or hardly. (Answers below)


A hand full of money Men working in a field
Basketball players Child being measured


1) She has hardly any money.
2) These men are working hard.
3) They are playing hard.
4) The boy is sad because he has hardly grown.