only just; almost not
I can scarcely believe it.
We scarcely ever meet.
Scarcely a week goes by without some new scandal in the papers.
used to say that sth happens immediately after sth else happens
He had scarcely put the phone down when the doorbell rang.
Scarcely had the game started when it began to rain.
used to suggest that sth is not at all reasonable or likely
It was scarcely an occasion for laughter.
She could scarcely complain, could she?
Hardly , scarcely and barely can all be used to say that something is only just true or possible. They are used with words like any and anyone , with adjectives and verbs, and are placed between can , could , have , be , etc. and the main part of the verb.
They have sold scarcely any copies of the book.
I barely recognized her.
His words were barely audible.
I can hardly believe it.
Hardly , scarcely and barely are negative words and should not be used with not or other negatives.
You can also use hardly , scarcely and barely to say that one thing happens immediately after another.
We had hardly/scarcely/barely sat down at the table, when the phone rang.
In formal, written English, especially in a literary style, these words can be placed at the beginning of the sentence and then the subject and verb are turned around.
Hardly/Scarcely had we sat down at the table, when the phone rang.
Note that you usually use when in these sentences, not than . You can also use before .
I scarcely had time to ring the bell before the door opened.
No sooner can be used in the same way, but is always used with than .
No sooner had we sat down at the table than the phone rang.
Hardly and scarcely can be used to mean ‘almost never’, but barely is not used in this way.
She hardly (ever) sees her parents these days.