Is there a one-word adverb meaning 'with difficulty', 'not easily'?

I am working on a grid for assessing pronunciation in speaking (correct sounds, correct intonations) and want to have a scale on which someone is judged 'hardly – not easily – fairly – easily – perfectly' intelligible.

This adverb, if it exists, is 'difficultly' found, you must admit!

  • Yes, difficultly.
    – Drew
    Jan 8, 2016 at 1:50
  • "perfectly" is fine but also consider "clearly"
    – lauir
    Jan 8, 2016 at 6:36

5 Answers 5


I believe for simple reviews of this sort, it might be best to consider a block grid, where left to right is less clear to more clear, and bottom to top is less correct to more correct. Then you could even average the scores or create a coordinate plot depending on the goal. If the goal is to address clarity of speech, that should receive the emphasis; if the goal is to address correctness of grammar, that should receive the emphasis; etc.

Then you also don't need to worry about the adverbs/words to use.

Something like this:

Evaluation Grid


'arduously', 'painfully', 'laboriously'

Personally I don't think 'perfectly' belongs on this scale. It is an indication of how well something succeeds rather than the difficulty of the work. One can do something with great difficult that is perfect.

  • I like 'painfully' because that is precisely the idea I want to express: the listener finds it difficult, unpleasant even, to try and make sense of what is being said because of problems with pronunciation (incorrect sounds and stress patterns). But 'painfully intelligible' does not sound like an existing collocation, does it?
    – user58319
    Jan 8, 2016 at 0:56
  • But I am positive 'perfectly intelligible' is an existing collocation!
    – user58319
    Jan 8, 2016 at 0:57

You could consider using the adverb vaguely which means:

In a way that is uncertain, indefinite or unclear; roughly.

Or roughly if your context includes difficult and even unpleasant pronunciation:

In a manner lacking refinement and precision

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

The issue is your scale/grid using adverbs doesn't seem ideal because it is not easy to tell the difference between hardly and vaguely or other suggested adverbs, not to mention between fairly and easily.

Therefore, it is better to scale a grid using a number, i.e. from 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 with an explanation such as "Scale 5 (or 10) representing perfectly (100%) intelligible".

Then, it becomes more clear and objective than using those adverbs which are understood based on personal subjective judgement.

  • You might want to promote roughly in this answer, @Rathony , given the poster's clarification about "unpleasant even." Your vaguely already got a vote from me but it would also make for a great second-worst intelligibility.
    – lauir
    Jan 8, 2016 at 6:44

Given your scale, I'd use "faintly intelligible".

  • The idea is not that the person speaks in a low voice, but gets some sounds and intonations wrong, which makes them difficult, unpleasant even, to understand.
    – user58319
    Jan 8, 2016 at 1:01

The website www.thesaurus.com lets you browse for synonyms for phrases, not just words. Here's what they suggest for the phrase "with difficulty":

  • clumsily
  • stiffly
  • bunglingly
  • carelessly
  • fumblingly
  • gawkily
  • gracelessly
  • inelegantly
  • ineptly
  • lumberingly
  • unadroitly
  • uncouthly
  • ungracefully
  • unskillfully

I would probably lean toward ineptly myself, depending on the context.

Edited to add: awkwardly and painfully may be better suited to some meanings.

  • -1. ineptly is inapt. He was understood with difficulty <> He was understood ineptly. OP is looking for a word that describes the listener's effort/ability to understand.
    – TimR
    Jan 7, 2016 at 23:28
  • @TimRomano You're right! I wasn't thinking of that particular scale, just providing the thesaurus recommendations and ineptly seemed the broadest fit. Personally, I'm not sure a single word is necessary...
    – Tim Ward
    Jan 8, 2016 at 17:19

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