difficult vs. difficulty – be difficult (for someone) to do something vs. have difficulty (in) doing something

By | December 23, 2016
difficult vs. difficulty:
be difficult (for someone) to do something vs. have difficulty (in) doing something
Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy.
La società tecnologica ha saputo moltiplicare le occasioni di piacere, ma essa difficilmente riesce a generare la gioia.
- Pope Paul VI
✓ It’s difficult for me to understand films in English.
E’ difficile per me capire i film in inglese.
✓ I have difficulty (in) understanding films in English.
✗ I have difficulty *to understand* films in English.
Faccio fatica a capire i film in inglese.
In English we use two expressions, each with a different form (one with an infinitive and one with a gerund): to be difficult (for someone) to do something and to have difficulty (in) doing something. Some more examples:
✓ It’s difficult for some children to understand the concept of numbers.
✗ It’s difficult for some children *understanding* the concept of numbers.
✓ Some children have difficulty (in) understanding the concept of numbers.
✗ Some children have difficulty *to understand* the concept of numbers.
Alcuno bambini hanno difficoltà a capire il concetto dei numeri.
Another point to note is that the expression have difficulty can be used in the continuous form. For example:
✓ I’m having difficulty understanding this new system.
Faccio fatica a capire questo nuovo sistema.


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