I always thought "I hardly doubt it" was a correct sentence, but it seems that it isn't. I do find a lot of occurrences though.

Should it be "I highly doubt it"?

I know the difference between hardly and highly, but just wanted to know if it can be used in this context. This made me doubt it (pun intended).

  • 2
    I highly doubt that you checked the difference between hardly and highly in a dictionary.
    – user66974
    Sep 4, 2014 at 10:09
  • I don't understand why other peoples have such a strange formulaic idea of the English language. As though the combination of English words is constrained by some form of unknown formula. As long as when words fit together conform to acceptable grammar, English can be used to express the ordinary, the extraordinary, the zanny, the weird, the cute, the unusual, etc. Sep 4, 2014 at 10:12
  • 1
    @Josh61 I highly recommend you trying to find the idiom "highly doubt it" vs "hardly doubt it" - it is very hard and NGRAM even shows "hardly doubt" is the more popular expression regardless of it being wrong.
    – mplungjan
    Sep 4, 2014 at 12:59
  • @mplungjan - Hi, I don't get your point. The two expressions are not idioms and are both used and correct (see Jasper answer). But OP has actually improved his question now giving context.
    – user66974
    Sep 4, 2014 at 13:08
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    @mplungjan, no it's not at all like "could/couldn't care less". Both "hardly doubt" and "highly doubt" are grammatically AND semantically correct; they just happen to mean opposite things. "Could care less" is OK grammatically, but not semantically; nevertheless, for some people it's idiomatic. All of "couldn't care less", "hardly doubt", and "highly doubt" are idiomatic in standard English, but none of them are idioms.
    – Marthaª
    Sep 4, 2014 at 18:50

3 Answers 3


I hardly doubt it

means you doubt it only a little.

I highly doubt it

means you doubt it a lot.

Both are grammatical but mean quite opposite things.

  • I'd suspect that the "hardly" form is usually a malapropism in actual usage.
    – augurar
    Sep 5, 2014 at 4:33

I've never heard the term "I'd hardly doubt it"; you'd use that in case you were unsurprised were events to take a certain turn.

"Do you reckon she'll come back?"

"I'd hardly doubt it. It's not like she has a back-up plan."

You'd use "I highly doubt it" (note use of I/I'd) if you were dubious of the course of events.

"Are the cookies ready yet?"

"I highly doubt it, it only feels like five minutes."


I do a lot of writing and I think in this case you have to think of the separate meanings of highly and hardly and put that with the doubt part.

"Highly doubt it" is the more preferable and, possibly more correct way, as it means the person really doubts what has been said (for example).

"Hardly doubt it" can be used but it has a slightly different meaning. Say someone (in a story) says they believe something is going to happen/certain outcome. The replier would say "I hardly doubt it" if they disagree/think the opposite.

Hope that helps.

  • So you're saying that "highly doubt it" means the person really doubts what has been suggested, and "hardly doubt it" means the person disagrees with what has been suggested?
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 4, 2014 at 10:51
  • yes, which sounds less complicated to the way i explained lol :) Sep 4, 2014 at 11:16
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    That means that hardly is equivalent to highly, which is wrong, I'm afraid. They are almost exact opposites.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 4, 2014 at 11:25
  • You mean "the more preferable" way as distinct from the merely preferable way?
    – Robusto
    Sep 4, 2014 at 12:20
  • Hardly preferable.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 4, 2014 at 17:51

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