for expressing hardly, is there difference between à peine and ne...guère?


for expressing hardly, is there difference between à peine and ne...guère?

Asked 1 year ago

Hi Ann,

ne.. guère is antiquated whereas à peine is in common use. 

-- Chris (not a native speaker). 


Hi Chris,

It is a rather  sweeping statement to say that the the use of ne ... guère is antiquated. Whereas its use may be declining in casual, colloquial speech, it remains in common usage in the formal written language.

Within the French metropolitan press the construction was used aproximately 62,000 times within the last year.

To put this in perspective, within the last year the following common, non-archaic phrases give the the following results:

dès lors - (multiple meanings) - consequently, henceforth ~ 76,000

c'est ne pas la peine (de) - it is not worth it ~ 19,000

à l'avenant - in keeping ~6000 uses

Even a relatively common noun such as - carence - deficiency is only used 9500 times.

à peine itself is used approx 355,000 times, or about 5.5 times the frequency of ne ... guère but this is hardly surprising given its flexibility, the number of possible nuanced meanings and its, admitted greater colloquiality.

The bottom line is, I believe it is erroneus to label ne ... guère as antiquated.

What are the feelings of others in the community on this topic?

Well, this isn't my opinion but those of two Native French speakers, one from Paris, who now lives in Bordeaux and the other one from Lyon. 

They don't know each other and gave me their opinion as educated French speakers. One also teaches French as a second language. So I have it on their authority. 



Thanks for the update.

It's just that the expression, as evidenced by the statistics, seems to be frequently used in the French press but then French journalists tend to be snobs (or perhaps purists) so maybe they are just swimming against a perceived tide of change in the French language.

There is a rather noticable difference between the various registers in the French language. Ne..guère is certainly part of an elevated register and not so much used in everyday French. I wonder if that shouldn't be noted in the lesson, and the more common à peine taught as well. 

I feel it should be correct as an oprion, otherwise why teach it?

for expressing hardly, is there difference between à peine and ne...guère?

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