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barely

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Re: barely

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 05.23.2008 7:37 am

Oops, an extra "class" got in that second example -- it should have just been "I barely missed today's class."

I think the sentence seems a little odd out of context, but if you say there's a teacher that locks the door to the class once it starts so that late people can't come in, it's a perfectly fine sentence.
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Re: barely

Postby Gundaetiapo » Fri 05.23.2008 10:04 am

chikara wrote:
Gundaetiapo wrote:1a: "I barely got 5 questions correct on the test."
1b: "I got barely 5 questions correct on the test."

How many questions did I get correct? ....

5 and only 5, and to me the nuance of "barely" in that context is that you consider you were fortunate to get those correct. Personally I wouldn't use "barely" in that context. In a correct/incorrect or true/false situation you either got 5 or you didn't.

barely adv 1. only; just; no more than; she is barely sixteen


I disagree. There are contexts where "barely" of a discrete quantity may include "slightly more than". This is easier to see with bigger numbers.

"There were barely enough tents for the thousands who lost their homes in the earthquake."

If there were a small surplus of one or two (or zero), this would still be a correct statement.
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Re: barely

Postby coco » Sun 05.25.2008 7:44 pm

I'd like to know if my interpretation of "barely missed" is correct or not.

Here is an example sentence.

"I barely missed the TV show last week."

My interpretation is;
1) If the show is a daily based ( 5 times a week) program, it means the speaker watched it 4 times, but missed 1 time.
2) If the show is a weekly program or a non-serial program, the speaker couldn't/ didn't watch the show.

Am I right?
Thanks in advance.
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Re: barely

Postby chikara » Sun 05.25.2008 7:54 pm

Gundaetiapo wrote:... I disagree. There are contexts where "barely" of a discrete quantity may include "slightly more than". This is easier to see with bigger numbers.

"There were barely enough tents for the thousands who lost their homes in the earthquake."

If there were a small surplus of one or two (or zero), this would still be a correct statement.

No it isn't. With respect, you are wrong.

The OED gives the definition of "barely" in that context as "only just sufficient". That certainly does not imply any surplus at all.
Last edited by chikara on Sun 05.25.2008 8:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: barely

Postby chikara » Sun 05.25.2008 7:59 pm

coco wrote:I'd like to know if my interpretation of "barely missed" is correct or not.

Here is an example sentence.

"I barely missed the TV show last week."

My interpretation is;
1) If the show is a daily based ( 5 times a week) program, it means the speaker watched it 4 times, but missed 1 time.
2) If the show is a weekly program or a non-serial program, the speaker couldn't/ didn't watch the show.

Am I right?
Thanks in advance.

Coco-san, I agree with 1) but IMHO 2) is ambiguous (the native English speakers in this thread can't agree on the meaning) and "barely" is a poor choice of word in that scenario, as it is to a lesser extent in scenario 1).
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Re: barely

Postby tanuki » Sun 05.25.2008 8:24 pm

Two things I would like to ask:

1) Would the sentence work with "almost"? (But with the opposite meaning.)

I ran as hard as I could, and I almost missed the train.


2) Would the original sentence be clearer if we used "but" instead of "and"?

I ran as hard as I could, but I barely missed the train.
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Re: barely

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sun 05.25.2008 8:59 pm

chikara wrote:
Gundaetiapo wrote:... I disagree. There are contexts where "barely" of a discrete quantity may include "slightly more than". This is easier to see with bigger numbers.

"There were barely enough tents for the thousands who lost their homes in the earthquake."

If there were a small surplus of one or two (or zero), this would still be a correct statement.

No it isn't. With respect, you are wrong.

The OED gives the definition of "barely" in that context as "only just sufficient". That certainly does not imply any surplus at all.


But if you're talking about thousands of tents, it's highly unlikely that they will have literally the exact number of tents. I agree with Gundaetiapo that if there are 2452 families that need tents, and there are 2460 tents, you could describe that as "barely enough tents". Although it seems to have the implication that more tents would have been even better for some reason.
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Re: barely

Postby Sairana » Sun 05.25.2008 9:19 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:But if you're talking about thousands of tents, it's highly unlikely that they will have literally the exact number of tents. I agree with Gundaetiapo that if there are 2452 families that need tents, and there are 2460 tents, you could describe that as "barely enough tents".


I concur. I think that getting "barely 5 questions right" on the test would change in meaning based on how many there are total. If there were 200 questions on the test, it's entirely possible the person is meaning they got at least 5 right, with the possibility of a few more.

If there were only 10 questions on the test, I would be less inclined to think that more than five are possible.

Although it seems to have the implication that more tents would have been even better for some reason.

I think it has the implication that as they were handing out tents, at some point they were worried that there wouldn't actually be enough. Luckily, after the fact, it turns out there were.
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Re: barely

Postby coco » Mon 05.26.2008 9:57 am

chikara wrote:
coco wrote:I'd like to know if my interpretation of "barely missed" is correct or not.

Here is an example sentence.

"I barely missed the TV show last week."

My interpretation is;
1) If the show is a daily based ( 5 times a week) program, it means the speaker watched it 4 times, but missed 1 time.
2) If the show is a weekly program or a non-serial program, the speaker couldn't/ didn't watch the show.

Am I right?
Thanks in advance.

Coco-san, I agree with 1) but IMHO 2) is ambiguous (the native English speakers in this thread can't agree on the meaning) and "barely" is a poor choice of word in that scenario, as it is to a lesser extent in scenario 1).


Chikara-san, I think I understand what you said.
Thank you for the explanation. :)
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Re: barely

Postby Gundaetiapo » Mon 05.26.2008 8:26 pm

coco wrote:I'd like to know if my interpretation of "barely missed" is correct or not.

Here is an example sentence.

"I barely missed the TV show last week."

My interpretation is;
1) If the show is a daily based ( 5 times a week) program, it means the speaker watched it 4 times, but missed 1 time.
2) If the show is a weekly program or a non-serial program, the speaker couldn't/ didn't watch the show.

Am I right?
Thanks in advance.


"barely" can refer to time or to quantity. In this case, it's time.

"I barely missed the TV show last week (because a meeting ran long)."

Are you asking about using "barely" to refer to the quantity of TV episodes?
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Re: barely

Postby Gundaetiapo » Mon 05.26.2008 8:29 pm

tanuki wrote:Two things I would like to ask:

1) Would the sentence work with "almost"? (But with the opposite meaning.)

I ran as hard as I could, and I almost missed the train.


2) Would the original sentence be clearer if we used "but" instead of "and"?

I ran as hard as I could, but I barely missed the train.


Yes, I think you have the right idea, Tanuki.
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Re: barely

Postby monkeykoder » Tue 05.27.2008 4:10 pm

I would say barely means statement satisfied but with a small change in circumstances it would not have been.
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Re: barely

Postby Feba » Sat 06.07.2008 8:46 am

Gundaetiapo wrote:
coco wrote:I'd like to know if my interpretation of "barely missed" is correct or not.

Here is an example sentence.

"I barely missed the TV show last week."

My interpretation is;
1) If the show is a daily based ( 5 times a week) program, it means the speaker watched it 4 times, but missed 1 time.
2) If the show is a weekly program or a non-serial program, the speaker couldn't/ didn't watch the show.

Am I right?
Thanks in advance.


"barely" can refer to time or to quantity. In this case, it's time.

"I barely missed the TV show last week (because a meeting ran long)."

Are you asking about using "barely" to refer to the quantity of TV episodes?


yeah, I think that sentence would imply that you were almost on time for the show. It seems strange, though, because if you miss more than the first few minutes of a TV show the rest of it tends to be gibberish (at least, if it has a plot). So possibly "I barely missed the beginning of the show", and because of that they decided not to watch it? (Because of it not making sense until you see the entire thing). It does seem rather strange to say you barely missed a TV show, though; being 35 minutes late to a 30 minute thing doesn't strike me as an appropriate time to use the word "barely".

If the person was talking about a program that aired daily, and missing an episode, they would've said something closer to "I saw almost every episode this week", or "I saw all but one episode this week". Maybe "I saw four of this week's episodes". I don't think any native speaker would use "I barely missed the show" to refer to seeing most of the episodes in a given week; although they might say "I barely missed it" to refer to almost always catching a show (especially if it's no longer running). In that case, though, "I rarely missed it" or "I hardly ever missed it" would seem more common.

Of course, a DVR would make all of this a lot easier :wink:
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Re: barely

Postby coco » Sun 06.08.2008 9:27 am

Feba wrote:yeah, I think that sentence would imply that you were almost on time for the show. It seems strange, though, because if you miss more than the first few minutes of a TV show the rest of it tends to be gibberish (at least, if it has a plot). So possibly "I barely missed the beginning of the show", and because of that they decided not to watch it? (Because of it not making sense until you see the entire thing). It does seem rather strange to say you barely missed a TV show, though; being 35 minutes late to a 30 minute thing doesn't strike me as an appropriate time to use the word "barely".

If the person was talking about a program that aired daily, and missing an episode, they would've said something closer to "I saw almost every episode this week", or "I saw all but one episode this week". Maybe "I saw four of this week's episodes". I don't think any native speaker would use "I barely missed the show" to refer to seeing most of the episodes in a given week; although they might say "I barely missed it" to refer to almost always catching a show (especially if it's no longer running). In that case, though, "I rarely missed it" or "I hardly ever missed it" would seem more common.

Of course, a DVR would make all of this a lot easier :wink:

Feba-san,
Thank you for the detailed and helpful explanation. :)
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Re: barely

Postby Oracle » Sun 06.08.2008 9:22 pm

Bit late, but here is my take on it

To me "barely missed it" means you missed the train by a small amount, but it sounds like one of those grammatically-correct-but-never-used-in-real-life constructions linguists use to test people :)
I wouldn't use "barely" in that way, I'd use "just" instead. "I *just* missed the train."

If I use "barely" with "missed" it would usually be in the sense of not getting to the stage/feeling of missing something (emotionally). Ie:

"The colleague who sits next to me was away for 3 weeks on a business trip. I barely missed him."

( = I didn't realise he was gone / I didn't really miss him at all :) )
Last edited by Oracle on Sun 06.08.2008 11:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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