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Hi. I'd like to know about inversion of a word "hardly."

"Hardly" is a negative word. So, when "hardly" is put at the beginning of a sentence, inversion happens.

1. Hardly had I finished dinner when the phone rang.
2. Hardly do I know about her.
3. Rarely do I have a dream.

I often see a form of sentence No.1, but I do not often see a form of No.2.
So, I googled, using yahoo.com.

Result is like this:
"rarely do i": There are 1,270,000 hits.
"hardly do i": There are only 10,900 hits.
"hardly had i": There are 45,800 hits.

So, my hypothesis is:
When "hardly" is put at the beginning of a sentence, inversion happens, but only when it is an idiom of "hardly ~ when/before."
When it is "hardly" alone, basically "hardly" is not put at the beginning of a sentence.
This is because the meaning of "hardly" is near that of "not," and "not" is not put at the beginning of a sentence, and neither is "hardly."
However, the meaning of "rarely" is different from that of "not." So, "rarely" is okay to be put at the beginning of a sentence.

Is that right? That's my question! 
What do you think as a native speaker of English?
Thank you.

March 6th 2009, sayaka, Japanese.
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Welcome to the forum! I comment on your sentences as a native speaker woutd say them
sayaka1. Hardly had I finished dinner when the phone rang.>> I had hardly finished dinner when the phone rang. "Hardly" is an adverb, and is most natural when placed before the verb. Your sentence is OK, and the word order is fine. It emphasizes the near interruption of your dinner.
2. Hardly do I know about her.>> I hardly know her. It means that I know her a little bit, for example, I spoke with her once at a party, but I don't know her well. Your sentence is not natural.
3. Rarely do I have a dream.>> I rarely have a dream. They mean about the same, and your word order is OK, but the second (adverb next to verb), is more frequent in conversation. Again, your sentence emphasizes that you do not dream very often, and it is a very special situation when you remember dreaming.

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sayakaSo, my hypothesis is:
When "hardly" is put at the beginning of a sentence, inversion happens, but only when it is an idiom of "hardly ~ when/before."
When it is "hardly" alone, basically "hardly" is not put at the beginning of a sentence.
This is because the meaning of "hardly" is near that of "not," and "not" is not put at the beginning of a sentence, and neither is "hardly."
However, the meaning of "rarely" is different from that of "not." So, "rarely" is okay to be put at the beginning of a sentence.

Is that right?
Yes. That's a good explanation.

CJ
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Comments  
Thank you for answering my question.

And I KNOW why "Hardly had I finished dinner when the phone rang." is okay, why "Hardly do I know about her." is not natural, and why "Rarely do I have a dream." is okay. As a Japanese, I don't know why "Hardly had I..." is okay and why "Hardly do I..." is not okay. I think this is a very difficult question even though you are a native speaker, but I'd like to know.

Thanks.
The problem with "hardly do I know about her." is the prepositional phrase - "about her". The way to say this is "I hardly know her." The inversion would be "Hardly do I know her."
English is a language that is quite sensitive to word order. The normal order is "subject-verb-object" with the modifier words placed near the word that they modify. Inversions of verb and subject are normally used for questions. If the words are out of the normal order, then it signals a literary device for emphasis or surprise.

In the case of your examples - the telephone ringing, or dreaming - there is an element of surprise, annoyance or something special going on, so the inversion sounds OK. In the case of knowing someone well or not so well, there is no such element, so the inversion seems unnatural.
It might be OK in poetry, if the inversion is used to better fit the meter or rhyme of the poem.
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 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.
I seem to have forgotten the basic rule of inversion. It is used when they want to emphasize something.
I've understand.

Thank you very much.
Please answer me again if I put a question here.

sayaka