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When someone notices that you are still
working, this person might call out to you
and jokingly ask, "Are you working HARD or
HARDLY working?" To understand the
humor in this question, it's important to
know the difference between HARD and

These two words are often confused
because one of them looks like the adverb
of the other because most adverbs end in
"LY". (For example: the adverb of quick is
quickly; the adverb of loud is loudly)
However, HARD & HARDLY are completely
different. In fact, they are actually direct
opposites. In other words, HARDLY is NOT
the adverb of HARD. As you'll see in the
examples below, the adverb of HARD is
simply "HARD"!

HARD - adjective or adverb
HARD can either be an adjective or an
adverb. As an adjective, it means difficult or
not soft, while as an adverb, it means
tirelessly or with a lot of energy. Take a
look at these examples.

1. English is HARD. (adj. difficult)
2. A turtle's shell is HARD. (adj. not soft)
3. He worked HARD today. He was
exhausted when he got home. (adv.
4. The athletes have been training HARD in
preparation for the competition. (adv.
strongly; tirelessly)
5. It was a HARD decision, but he's happy
he made it. (adj. difficult)

HARDLY - only an adverb
HARDLY, on the other hand, only functions
as an adverb and means "almost not" or
"not really."
were growing up.
2. They HARDLY recognized each other
after so many years apart.
3. She forgot her glasses and could
HARDLY see the board.
4. They
fretted about the mistake, but the
manager HARDLY noticed.
5. The medicine was HARDLY effective. She
still felt sick after taking it.

Working HARD or HARDLY working?
Back to your colleague's question, if you're
working HARD, you are really working and
getting things done. However, if you're
HARDLY working, you are probably just
playing around or doing other things
besides work.

So how do you answer this question? Well,
it depends. If you are working on
something important, you can honestly say
that you're working HARD and quickly
explain why you are still
at it after hours.
Alternatively, you can joke back at your
colleague, which many people do, and say
you're HARDLY working whether or not you

There you have it. The next time you hear
this question, you'll know what it means
and what to say, and perhaps you, yourself,
can jokingly ask a colleague who is still
working after hours, "Working HARD or
HARDLY working?"

HUMOR - comedy; something funny
FRET - worry
AT IT - working; busy doing something
photo: sale of avocados that's HARD to resist
With this sale it was HARD to resist buying some of
these avocados. I HARDLY had any second thoughts
about getting at least a few.
photo: illegible handwriting
I wonder whose handwriting this is. :-) I
can HARDLY read it. It's so illegible; it's
so HARD to read.
Has anyone asked you if you were working HARD or
HARDLY working?
This can happen anywhere, but it usually
happens when you're still at your desk or station after
quitting time and most of your colleagues have already left
for the day.
September 12, 2013
Copyright 2009 - 2014 Joseph Yu. All rights reserved.