Usage of barely, hardly, scarcely


Do the three words(barely,hardly,scarcely) sound natural and interchangeable in the following sentence?
He has a sore throat and can barely/hardly/scarcely speak.
Thanks in advance

Hi nobody

Yes, you can use any of the three.

Hi Nobody,

I think of the three I would plump for ‘barely’ as the most appropriate in your sentence. It gives the idea of not really being able to speak.


Hi Yankee, thank you for your answer.

Hi Alan,
Thank you for your answer as well.
Why do you think ‘hardly’ and ‘scarcely’ are less appropriate here? Don’t they both mean the same as ‘barely’ in the sentence? i.e. don’t they both also give the idea of not really being able to speak?

Thanks in advance

Personally, nobody, I’d say “he has a sore throat and can hardly speak”. “Barely” to me suggests he can speak, but not very well. “Hardly” suggest he can’t speak much at all.

I would never say “scarcely” with that sentence because, although it means pretty much the same thing in the dictionary, has a slightly different usage. For example, food can be ‘scarce’ meaning there is not much of it. I would not say “food was hardly” or “hard”. Although I’m not sure why. :S

I hope that helps…