suffer (from) a disease; contract a disease; develop a disease

stephenlearner

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,

What is the difference between suffer a disease and contract a disease?
Can I say if somebody suffers a disease, the source of that disease is in him, and when somebody contracts a disease, its source is outside him?

How about cancer? suffer a cancer or contract a cancer?

Thank you.
 
  • boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    One problem I see here is that it is not quite clear what exactly you want to say. As you probably know, suffer has several meanings and the one you have used here makes your statement sound strange to me: to suffer a disease would mean to experience, undergo or endure a disease.

    That said, you can contract infective, contagious diseases.

    You can suffer from all kinds of diseases.

    I am afraid the distinction you are trying to make would not work...
     

    Oeco

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Hi,

    What is the difference between suffer a disease and contract a disease?
    Can I say if somebody suffers a disease, the source of that disease is in him, and when somebody contracts a disease, its source is outside him?
    As Boozer says, this doesn't work. One contracts a disease (one "gets the disease") and then one suffers from it (one endures the various pains that the disease brings). The inside/outside thing is irrelevant.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I contracted malaria when I was on an expedition down the river Congo. Every now and then I suffer from bouts of it.

    I didn't know he suffers from AIDs. How did he get it? It must have been contracted from an infected blood transfusion many years ago.

    My mother suffered terribly from rheumatoid arthritis. How did she get it? What do you mean? It's not some sort of infection, it just develops.


    Hermione
     

    bicontinental

    Senior Member
    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    To suffer from a disease means that a person has a certain disease, but it doesn’t say anything about the way the individual acquired the disease. As such “the source/cause/etiology may be inside or outside” the patient, as you suggest. A patient may suffer from migraines, high blood pressure, back pain, syphilis etc.


    An individual contracts a disease... typically by being exposed to something contagious; diseases with an infectious etiology are contracted (hepatitis, STDs, yellow fever etc.) In other words, you don’t contract a heart attack or a broken leg.


    Hermione’s examples above show these differences.


    How about cancer? suffer a cancer or contract a cancer?

    Neither. I’d say, he developed cancer [of the lung, liver, stomach….]


    Also, please make note of the difference between ‘suffer’ (transitive form) and ‘suffer from’ (intransitive form):
    He suffered a heart attack after suffering from high blood pressure for decades.
     
    Last edited:

    stephenlearner

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you very much.
    But I am still confused.
    Why do you say some kinds of diseases are developed, and some are suffered?
    For example:
    He suffered a stroke.
    He developed a cancer of the lung.

    Is not stroke developed gradually too?
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Thank you very much.
    But I am still confused.
    Why do you say some kinds of diseases are developed, and some are suffered?
    For example:
    He suffered a stroke.
    He developed a cancer of the lung.

    Is not stroke developed gradually too?
    No, a stroke is a sudden dramatic event. Cancer begins small and gets bigger.
    You don't generally develop "a cancer". It's normally just "cancer", no article, along with something more specific.
    For example, "He developed lung cancer."
     

    Erebos12345

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Hi,

    "Develop" implies a gradual process, as in the growth of a cancer-causing tumour. At the same you can still "suffer" from the effects of the cancer.

    Not sure if I've ever heard of someone "develop" a stroke because a stroke is something very sudden. But you can certainly develop a brain aneurysm as the blood vessels in your brain change size over time, which may lead to a stroke as a part of your brain is suddenly cut off from blood and oxygen.
     

    bicontinental

    Senior Member
    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    Thank you very much.
    But I am still confused.
    Why do you say some kinds of diseases are developed, and some are suffered?
    For example:
    He suffered a stroke.
    He developed a cancer of the lung.

    Is not stroke developed gradually too?



    I’m sorry this is still confusing to you. I really think it may help you to take a look at the WR definitions of the various verbs (there are also previous threads that you may find helpful). The idiomatic use of the verbs is linked to the type of disease or condition they modify. Here are some general suggestions/guidelines to give you an overview, (but please remember that there are always exceptions):


    To contract a disease is to catch a disease. http://www.wordreference.com/definition/contract, (3rd verb definition) This verb is typically used about diseases that are transmissible (capable of being transmitted from one individual to another, contagious, infectious) Kids may contract measles and mumps if they’re not immunized etc.


    To suffer vs. to develop:

    To suffer a disease is to be subjected to or affected by a disease: http://www.wordreference.com/definition/suffer (we tend to use it about diseases/conditions that happen suddenly: we can suffer injuries, a concussion, a stroke, a heart attack etc.)

    And now that you’re at it you may also want to have at look at 'suffer vs. suffer from' (many threads on WR): We can suffer from almost anything. :)


    ‘To develop a disease’ is used about a disease process which starts to exist, grows and becomes more advanced in an individual: http://www.wordreference.com/definition/develop This verb is typically used about diseases that happen over time, go through stages of development: a brain aneurysm, cancer (please see posts # 7 and 8 above)


    Therefore, we would say:

    He developed a brain aneurysm (the aneurysm develops-grows over time)…but

    He suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm (it is a sudden event when the aneurysm “pops”)

    He developed brain cancer (it grew over time from one cell to a tumor mass)

    He suffered a massive brain hemorrhage/ he suffered a stroke (the bleeding happened suddenly)

    He suffered numerous injuries in a recent MVA (a sudden event)

    And the list goes on…


    Obviously people would understand you if you were to say ‘he suffered a cancer’, but it is not idiomatic. It's my hope that you're less confused by now :)
     

    stephenlearner

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Great help. Thank you very much. Thank you, panjandrum and Erebos12345. Special thanks go to bicontinental. Your explanation has cleared up my confusion.
     

    Madyan Alwajeeh

    New Member
    Arabic
    As Boozer says, this doesn't work. One contracts a disease (one "gets the disease") and then one suffers from it (one endures the various pains that the disease brings). The inside/outside thing is irrelevant.
    Do you mean that it is only "Sb suffers from a disease then endures its pain" and that there is nothing called" suffers a disease or pain"?
     

    Madyan Alwajeeh

    New Member
    Arabic
    Do you mean that it is only "Sb suffers from a disease then endures its pain" and that there is nothing called" suffers a disease or pain"?
     

    Oeco

    Senior Member
    English - US
    This has been answered, Madyan. Sorry that there is still confusion. You quote my response, by which I meant to say that "suffer" and "endure" are synonyms. One suffers or endures a disease or pain. Suffer, in its earliest meaning means to "allow" in the sense of verb meaning #5 at Wordreference dictionary "To tolerate or allow." The example there is "I do not suffer fools gladly." Or in the King James Version of the bible, Jesus says, "Suffer the little children to come unto me." To "suffer" a disease, therefore, is to allow its effects to have its way or to "endure" it.
     
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