Discussion in 'English Only' started by mimi2, Mar 18, 2006.

  1. mimi2 Senior Member

    vietnam vietnamese
    Please tell me when to use "difficulty" and when to use "difficulties". I'm confused.
    1."Most children learn to speak without any difficulty."
    2."Most children learn to speak without any difficulties."
  2. vlahead8 New Member

    Southeastern US
    USA, English
    Both of your sentences are fine. #1 puts more emphasis on the difficulty of learning to speak in general. #2 puts more emphasis on the individual difficulties (problems) that children encounter when learning. Although there may be exceptions to this that I can't remember, I think that you use "difficulty" when talking about the general difficult nature of the task, or one specific difficult part. You use "difficulties" when talking about several difficult parts that make up a whole. But keep in mind, either word will work in many situations, such as the one you presented. Hope that helps! I haven't posted too much, just starting. :)
  3. bartonig Senior Member

    UK English
    The determiner is not necessary.

    1."Most children learn to speak without difficulty."
    2."Most children learn to speak without difficulties."

    With or without the determiner I would say the singular form is most commonly used.
  4. ojyram Senior Member

    Tampa, Fl, USA
    USA English (Learning Spanish)
    Perhaps these examples will help:

    Singular: Refers to the general idea of difficulty, often preceded by a modifier such as no, some, much, little, any.
    We had no difficulty at all.
    We learned it without much difficulty.
    We had a little difficulty in making the changes.
    We didn't have any difficulty finding your house.
    We had some difficulty understanding the directions.

    Plural: Refers to a collection of problems, Use plural when you COULD follow by naming specific, multiple problems.
    We had a few difficulties filling your order. (There was no address and you did not send money!)
    My boyfriend and I had some difficulties that we could not resolve, so we broke up. (He thought I was stupid, and I thought he was stingy.)

    problem, trouble and difficulty
  5. mimi2 Senior Member

    vietnam vietnamese
    Thank you very much for your help. I undestand my problem now.
  6. sunyaer Senior Member

    I just wanted to summarize these ideas in a slightly different way:

    When you are saying that something is (not) easy, you would use singular to express the general idea of difficulty as in:

    “I have a lot of difficulty in learning this.” or

    “I have no difficulty in learning this.”

    In this situation, you might not want to list all the difficulties in different stages of learning. On the other hand, if these difficulties are what you want to tell your listeners, you may start off saying:

    “I have all kinds of difficulties in learning this. …”, and then continue on describing these difficulties in details.


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