catch a cold or catch cold?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by fatbaby, Nov 16, 2007.

  1. fatbaby Senior Member

    Beijing
    China Chinese
    You'll catch a cold if you go outside with your hair wet.
    You'll catch cold if you go outside with your hair wet.
    So. my question is which is idiomatic?
    Actually, I got 277.000 for catch a cold
    131,000 for catch cold. I mean google search.

    THANK YOU.
     
  2. anothersmith Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English, U.S.
    I've heard people say both. I say "catch a cold."
     
  3. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    The expressions mean something different:

    To catch a cold is to catch the disease.

    To catch cold, or to take cold is to stay out too long in cold weather and spend a long time shivering afterwards. The experience may cause you to catch a cold, but not necessarily.
     
  4. fatbaby Senior Member

    Beijing
    China Chinese
    Thank you both!
    But I felt still feel confused about what Thomas Tompion said.Would you please give me examples? Thanks again!
     
  5. victoria1 Senior Member

    Mauritius - English & French
    Ex. "You will catch cold if you don't come inside the house immediately", says a Mom to her child.

    Ex. Peter did not go to work because he caught a cold.

    Is it clear to you now. Thomas has rightly pointed out the difference between the two.
     
  6. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    A cold is a disease which lasts a few days, characterised by sneezing, a runny nose, headache, and mild malaise, but not usually accompanied by fever. It is often followed by a cough which my last a week or two. If you go out and catch cold, you need to take a hot bath and keep very warm for several hours and, with luck, you won't come to harm. If you catch cold you may cause yourself to catch a cold but you may be lucky and avoid doing so.
     
  7. BoTrojan Senior Member

    New Wilmington, PA
    USA, English
    Hmmm. I have to say that in my experience, these phrases are pretty much interchangeable. Try as you might to find a difference in meaning, I don't believe there is ... at least not in common AE parlance.

    Be careful or you'll catch cold!
    Be careful or you'll catch a cold!
    Be careful or you'll catch your death of cold!

    They all mean exactly the same to me.
     
  8. Vinlander Senior Member

    Canada, American English (mostly)
    They don't to me at all.
    ... you'll catch cold!
    Idiomatic, you will feel your body temperature drop (or feel cold).
    ... you'll catch a cold!
    Not idiomatic, you will contract a case of Acute viral nasopharyngitis, or acute coryza, also known as the common cold.
    ... you'll catch your death of cold!
    You will die of hypothermia (probably an overstatement).

    Vinlander
     
  9. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    They mean the same to me.
    Clearly, from the OED, it depends where you are on the timeline from formerly to now.

    42. to catch cold: formerly, to become chilled by exposure to cold; now, to contract the ailment called a ‘cold’ or catarrh, to ‘take cold’. Also, in this sense, to catch a cold.

    To my surprise, I am at now :)
     
  10. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    With snow in today's weather forecast, I'll report that in this part of the world,
    to catch cold and to catch a cold both refer to getting sick. Catch your death of cold
    is an old-fashioned term found in books, not in speech, and generally meant to get
    very ill with a cold. It was a bit alarmist.
     
  11. fatbaby Senior Member

    Beijing
    China Chinese
    Thanks to you all!
    I'd like to go further about the A COLD & COLD question.
    What should I say if more than two persons catch the disease COLD?
    A couple of kids in my class caught A cold last week?
    Should I drop the A in above sentence?
     
  12. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    As you have noticed above, there are regional differences of opinion. In my part of
    the AE speaking arena, we would say, "...kids...caught cold last week".
    To add to the muddle, we might also say that they caught colds.
     
  13. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Around here, a lot of kids in the class had colds last week.
    We tend not to catch colds.
     
  14. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    Must be all the vitamin C in the Irish diet.

    This points to an interesting AE distinction. To catch cold/catch a cold is to come down with the illness. To have a cold is to suffer its effects, to be ill. We use both terms, but the first usually refers to the onset.
     
  15. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    Interesting, but how do they gauge this change in meaning? I guess you could say that about any change in meaning, but I wonder how the researchers know which was meant?

    I actually agree with Thomas T. and Vinlander, and allow a distinction. However, of course, I can't always know which is meant either!

    Possibly the distinction is deemed to be gone on the basis of better medical knowledge, nevertheless the folk-medicine feeling persists. It reminds me of the Queen's "chills", which were debunked in the media a number of years ago (there is no so thing as a "chill" medically).
     
  16. yourkillingme16

    yourkillingme16 Banned

    loserville
    English
    We always say "you'll catch a cold" when refering to the sickness. And if you say "you'll catch cold" it means you'll get really cold. (Though we don't use that phrase really, that's what it means if someone did use it.) :)

    I don't really think that you could use
    "several kids caught cold in our class" without it sounding quite off.
    However "Several kids caught colds" is fine.
    "I caught a cold."-A tells me that I caught the illness/sickness that we call a "cold"
    I wouldn't say
    "I caught cold."-Doesn't specify anything, so I would take it to mean that I was cold.
    :)
     
  17. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    That's really interesting. I agree with yourkillingme, who is sixteen, and not with the OED, which seems to have rubbished the old meaning of to catch cold, before it deserved it - certainly if sixteen-year-olds are still using it. I wonder if it's a Northern thing. I learnt to speak in Manchester. In which part of the country is Loserville, I wonder.
     
  18. Vinlander Senior Member

    Canada, American English (mostly)
    It wouldn't be wrong to have the A there because there is the sense that they are catching the same cold, the cold that is going round the school, community, &c.. It relates to how we think about colds as a disease. One could say, A couple of kids in my class caught the plague last week? (the as there are different sorts of plague and they caught a specific one, bubonic perhaps, maybe Mickey Mouse visited the school). There is also popular idea (based on the actual nature of the viruses causing colds) that there are different colds going around at times, so it would make sense to say:
    I caught the cold going round in November, it wasn't so bad. But then I got the cold on the go in January and it was nastier. I get a lot of colds. I suppose, with my luck, I will get a cold during my vacation.
    That wouldn't work if you substituted smallpox for cold (ignoring the medical implications of that for the moment) because there is the popular sense that there is only one form of smallpox.

    Vinlander
     
  19. bosun Senior Member

    korean
    What is the differnece between ' catch a cold' and ' have a cold'? which one is right in the followig sentence?

    If i had not caguth( or had??) a cold, I could have attended class.
     
  20. Fedman3 Senior Member

    Los Angeles, California
    Spanish - Mexico
    Bosun, first you catch a cold, then you have it. In the context of your sentence, the more active form (catching it) would work better.

    If I had not caught a cold, I would have attended class.
     
  21. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    To "catch" a cold is technically, the process of getting the cold virus. If you start to feel a stuffy head and a scratchy throat, you would say "I think that I'm catching a cold." Once you have the full-blown effects of a cold, you say "I have a cold".

    To confuse matters somewhat, you can say "If I hadn't caught a cold, I could have attended class" but you can also say "If I hadn't had a cold, I could have attended class."

    In other words, "catching" a cold is simply the processing of becoming ill with a cold. You "caught" a cold so you now "have" a cold.
     
  22. NEONAV New Member

    India- Hindi and English
    Does Catch a cold also mean to make a loss; to lose one's investment?
     
  23. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I've never encountered this meaning. Have you seen it used like this somewhere?

    Welcome to the Forum, Neonav!
     
  24. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    I see Forbes likes it: Chinese Property Tycoons Catch Cold Amid Chilling Market

    And MarketWatch: Banks shares catch a cold even after surviving health check

    So it would seem to be financial jargon, although I see that Collins lists it as slang: (slang) to make a loss; lose one's investment

    But the examples they cite only include one that's financial – By that logic, when Wall Street sneezes, Dalal Street cannot but catch a cold. Business Today (1997).
     

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