He looks in pain

Discussion in 'English Only' started by kaaskaa, Apr 21, 2017.

  1. kaaskaa Senior Member

    How to explain to students the occurence of ''in pain'' here? As a rule, look(s) is followed by adjectives... and prepositional phrases?
  2. velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    Where have you seen "He looks in pain", kaaskaa? If someone seems to be in pain I wouldn't express it that way myself.
  3. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    "He looks in pain" is a shortened version of "He looks as if he were/is in pain" or "He looks to be in pain."

    This form of omission is common with stative verbs in such constructions:

    They seem/appear in good spirits/out of order/under the weather/on a high, etc., etc.
  4. kaaskaa Senior Member

    In a coursebook ;-)
  5. kentix Senior Member

    English - U.S.
    I can't imagine saying that myself. It just sounds incomplete. Maybe it's the verb "looks". It's hard to distinguish these two:

    He <looks> <in pain>. (Good)
    He <looks in> <pain>. (Nonsense)

    "Seems" seems to avoid this issue and I think sounds more natural.

    He seems in pain.
  6. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    "He looks in pain" is, I believe, wholly unremarkable in BE, and means, as Paul said, "he looks as if he were in pain". The point is that he appears, visually, to be experiencing pain. If he "seems to be in pain" the clue might be his moaning or groaning, not his appearance.
  7. kentix Senior Member

    English - U.S.
    My natural inclination if I needed to use the word "look" would just be to say, "He looks like he's in pain." I don't think "He looks in pain" could make it out of my mouth. :)
  8. kaaskaa Senior Member

    So could we put it down to Br./Am. differences ;-)?
  9. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Not entirely. I wouldn't say "He looks in pain", any more than I suspect veli would (post #2).

    I'd say "He looks like he's in pain". :)
  10. velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    I can confirm your suspicion, Donny:D.

    I'm not accustomed to hearing or seeing "He looks in pain".

    I would say "He looks like/as though he's in pain", or even "He looks to be in pain".
  11. kentix Senior Member

    English - U.S.
    "He looks to be in pain."

    Yes, that's equally good. And works better with seems, as well.

    "He seems to be in pain".
  12. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    If you undertake a Google News search for "looks in pain" you will find plenty of examples from sources such as the Daily Telegraph, BBC Sports news feeds, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Mail, the Dallas News, the New Zealand Herald ........
  13. Hermione Golightly

    Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    British English
    'He looks in pain'.
    Please give us some context or explanation or reason why this sentence is being discussed at all.
    What do you think it's supposed to mean in the coursebook?
    If I saw a human or animal who seemed to be in pain, that might be what I what I would say in the heat and urgency of the moment, a sort of short form as opposed to a literary/ formal/considered expression. There are other ways I would more likely express my opinion, without using 'look'. Such as 'He seems (to be) in pain!' or 'I think he's in pain', even 'He must be in pain!'

    I probably would say, but I would never write, "It looks like he is in pain". That's because I was educated to use 'like' only when a noun follows, and to use 'as if' when a clause follows.
    I don't know if that idea of good grammar has changed by now in BE, or how different AE and BE usage might be these days. What's acceptable for most but the pedants in everyday speech might not be acceptable in the language exam context.
    If we go for the 'looks as if' construction, we then have to decide about using the subjunctive 'was' or 'were'

    Put it like this: if 'like' introduces a clause (with a finite verb) you can't go wrong changing it to 'as if'.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
  14. velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    I'm often shocked by what makes its way past editors and into print. (And please don't get me started on the Daily Mail's brand of "English".)

    Lane looks in pain most of the video, before eventually signing off saying: “Might have to leave you fellas, things are starting to get a little bit intimate".
    Cricket commentator keeps broadcasting during vasectomy
  15. Hermione Golightly

    Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    British English
    It might be 'good' in some varieties of English, but I would never say that because it sounds to me like some foreign dialect. By 'foreign', I mean 'alien' to me, even if the dialect is a British one.
    It sounds vaguely like a west country BE dialect, or something my grandma might have said talking about the future. I can just hear her saying
    "It looks to be a stormy night, the night, aargh!" My grandma would now be 154 years old. I would say in my mellifluous standard tones, "It looks as if it will be a stormy night, doesn't it?".

    The 'to infinitive' is very often used for the future to express the as yet unrealised or the impossible /hypothetical. This distinction seems to be dying; possibly it's already dead in demotic American and American-influenced varieties of English.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
  16. You little ripper! Senior Member

    Australian English
    I think it's just colloquial English. We often abbreviate in conversation.
  17. Hermione Golightly

    Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    British English
    I have no problem at all with 'He seems to be in pain'. It's 'He seems in pain' or, especially, 'He looks to be in pain'.

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