Bob has been acting all hard done by.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by AlbertoForin, Sep 1, 2014.

  1. AlbertoForin Senior Member

    Hi, can you explain what does 'hard done by' means grammatically (I know its general meaning)?

    << --- second question deleted --- >>

    Friend #1: "I can't believe the way Bob has been acting all hard done by, ever since he had to pay to get his roof fixed."
    Friend #2: "it's pathetic all right...."

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 1, 2014
  2. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    "It's pathetic all right" means "Bob's behaviour is definitely pathetic".

    "Hard done by" is a passive, but it is best to take it as a set expression and not to try to deconstruct it, because it doesn't work in the active voice: *"Someone did hard by Bob":cross:.
  3. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    To do <adverb> by (intr.) = to be dealt with; to treat <in adverb manner>

    To do by is a very old construction that exists now only in this form.


    Bob has been acting all hard done by, = Bob has been behaving in a manner that implies that he has been dealt with/treated in a completely unjust and unsympathetic manner.
  4. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    Absolutes such as only are dangerous.

    We talk of doing well by someone to mean being generous to them.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2014
  5. Parla Member Emeritus

    New York City
    English - US
    "Hard done by" is, I presume, exclusively BE; I'd never heard it before (although "do well by" is used in AE).
  6. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    "Be done by", with that meaning, is familiar to anyone who has read Charles Kingsley's The Water-Babies, in which the two characters, Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby and Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid, appear. The book was standard reading for British children for many years; but I believe Kingsley was less popular in the US than in the UK, which may be a contributing factor to the expression's unfamiliarity to AE speakers.

    To be "hard done by" is of course the same expression with the addition of the adverb "hard"; though, as sound shift says, it has become a set phrase these days.

  7. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Which is why I did not use one. ;) What do you think of "He was done well by by his aunt."?

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