could scarcely

Which are correct:

1) You could barely touch his knee and he'd scream in pain.

2) You could hardly touch his knee and he'd scream in pain.

3) You could scarcely touch his knee and he'd scream in pain.

The idea is that the slightest touch would make him scream.

Gratefully,

Navi

Original Post
navi posted:

Which are correct:

1) You could barely touch his knee and he'd scream in pain.

2) You could hardly touch his knee and he'd scream in pain.

3) You could scarcely touch his knee and he'd scream in pain.

The idea is that the slightest touch would make him scream.

Hello, Navi: Only (1) and (2) work with that meaning. "Scarcely" isn't used with the "slightest touch" sense. One can't say, "I am scarcely touching your knee right now, but you are acting as if I had it in a vice."

Now, if you changed "and" to "but," (3) would be correct, but with a different meaning: "You could scarcely touch his knee but he would scream in pain" means "You could scarcely touch his knee without his screaming in pain."

The same thing can be done with (1) and (2). With "but," they have that other meaning, according to which one could hardly ever touch his knee without his screaming. This exotic structure is that found in: "It never rains but it pours."

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