Is it correct to use a negative question tag in this sentence:

"It hardly seems fair, doesn't it?"

Bit confusing, because if I wrote "it doesn't seem fair, ..." The correct tag would be a positive "does it?"

But "it hardly" is essentially "it does hardly..."

It appears that the negative tag is grammatically correct, but I think it still sounds wrong to the ear.


Hardly means to almost no degree; almost (does) not; though it is not purely negative, it's use still follows the double negation rule.

It hardly seems fair = It almost does not seem fair

Therefore there shouldn't be a negative tag with it.

The same holds true for barely, scarcely, and rarely. They all carry the force of a negative.

It hardly seems fair, does it?
It's barely worth the effort, is it?
It's rarely simple, is it?
We could scarcely complain, could we?

Though some people might use a negative tag after hardly, barely, scarcely and rarely, it would be unacceptable in standard English.


It hardly is equivalent to it doesn't in your example. So the tag question should be in the positive.

Hardly is a negative. So, although you could say it does hardly is equivalent to it hardly, it does hardly is also equivalent to it does not.

Another example is "it is hardly worth the effort" is a slightly less negative version of "it is not worth the effort".

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