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Hi, Izzat Hannah,

From Oxford dictionary:

Hardly had she spoken than she regretted it bitterly.

Hardly had we arrived than the problems started.

I know that we use than with soon(er), but is it possible to use than with hardly, too?

Not in an exam. From the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, page 1134:

i No sooner had we got home when the police arrived.
ii Hardly had we got home than the police arrived.
Such blends are accepted as established usage by the liberal manuals, but still condemned by the more authoritarian ones.

Hi, Izzat Hannah,

Actually, "than" can be used with both "no sooner" (not "sooner" alone) and "hardly," as you can see in this LDOCE entry:

no sooner/hardly had ... than
used to say that one thing happens immediately after another thing
No sooner had I got into the house than the phone rang.
Hardly had they reached Edinburgh than they were ordered to return to London.

"Hardly" can also be used with "when," as you can read in this old thread.

Raymond, I'm not sure if by means of your comment you are objecting to the construction "hardly ... than" as being exclusively British.  In Merriam-Webster's dictionary we can find exactly the same usage:

hardly/scarcely than


Hardly/scarcely had the sun come up than dark clouds began to roll in.
Last edited by Gustavo, Co-Moderator

Well, I admit that "than" calls for a comparative, and "no sooner" is inherently comparative while "hardly" is not. I also acknowledge that that is what we traditionally teach to our ESL students.

However, under item 14.13 Correlative subordinators on page 999 of Quirk's A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, the authors do not frown upon the use of hardly ... than (and no sooner ... when) but instead merely refer to it as informal:


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Last edited by Gustavo, Co-Moderator

Hi, all,

From 'The New Fowlers English Usage', page 350:

2 hardly... than. This, and the parallel constructions barely ... than and scarcely
... than, which have arisen by analogy with no sooner than, are labelled by the
OED (s.v. than conj. 3d) with the condemnatory sign ¶
The examples cited are: He had scarcely won for himself the place which he deserved, than his health was found shattered-Froude, 1864; Hardly had the Council been re-opened at Trent... than Elizabeth was allying herself with the Huguenots—F. W.
Maitland, 1903. Jespersen (1909-49, vol. vii) added three more examples ('in vulgar or half-vulgar speech') from the works of minor 20c. writers. Fowler himself judged the construction to be 'surprisingly common' and cited several examples: The crocuses had hardly come into bloom in the London parks than they were swooped upon by London children; Hardly has Midsummer passed than municipal rulers all over the country have to face the task of choosing new mayors. In post-Fowlerian times both hardly ... than and (esp.) hardly ... when constructions have continued in use. Examples: (hardly ... than) Hardly were they past the carrier than two Corsairs 'scrambled' off the deck to 'intercept an enemy plane'—Daily Tel, 1944; Hardly had the chalky jet stream dissipated above the  than it was ......

From the evidence before me the standard construction of the two is hardly... when; but it can only be a matter of time before the OED needs to append a usage note to its catachrestic sign s.v. than conj. 3d. Meanwhile hardly than can easily be avoided.

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