The word "barely" is an adverb similar to "not much." (This is a popular adverb.)

She can barely speak English.

(She can’t speak much English.)

In this sentence, "barely" modifies the verb "speak" and the modal verb "can." The opposite of the sentence above would be "She can speak English well."

Here are some more examples for the adverb, "barely."

  • He barely comes to class. (He doesn’t come to class very often. The adverb "barely" modifies "comes.")
  • I can barely hear you. (I can’t hear you very well.)
  • They’re barely able to pay their rent. (They are having trouble paying their rent.)
  • Jimmy barely eats anything. (He doesn’t eat very much. His parents should take him to a doctor!)
  • This computer barely works. (This computer doesn’t work very well. It’s time for a new one.)

Sometimes the word "barely" appears at the end of the sentence. This creates emphasis or it has a humorous effect:

  • She can speak English–barely.
  • We made it to class on time, barely.
  • My car still works–barely.

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 This page was first published on December 10, 2011. It was amended on December 26, 2014.