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study English hard

hirashin

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Hello, native English speakers.

I have a new question.

An American friend of mine says, "'study hard' is quite common in speech
and in writing, but I'm not used to seeing 'study English hard'".

She also says that "study hard at English" would be used.

I'd like to know other native speakers' views about it.

Do you say
(a) They study English (very) hard.
or
(b) They study (very) hard at English.
?

Thanks in advance.

Hirashin
 

letianchen

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a) is said. b) would not be said by a native speaker.

This applies to other things.

He works out hard ( He work out with alot of vigor)
He fights hard
 

RickNZ

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Either is ok, I'd be more likely to say (b), only because it's got a nicer rhythm
 

letianchen

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Hm.. I';ve heard the B structure before but it sounds very weird. I guess its a preference thing.
 

nahadef

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Hm.. I';ve heard the B structure before but it sounds very weird. I guess its a preference thing.

English is often a regional thing. In areas of America, people wait 'on line' instead of in line, and it sounds horrible to me. Even worse, some places they say 'on accident' instead of by accident. It sounds so very wrong to my Torontoian ears. But to be a good English teacher, you have to accept that when a million native speakers consistently use 'wrong' English, it becomes a dialect and must be taught as such (not that the original example was wrong, but that the commonness of either may vary by region.
 

eeky

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Can you study "at" a subject? Logically, if "They study hard at English" is correct then "They study at English" should be correct too, and I should be able to say "I study at Japanese", which sounds plain wrong to me.

(Edited) It occurred to me later that there may be a confusion with the expression "work at something". Because people are used to "work hard at ...", which is correct, they may perceive "hard at" as a correct combination even when the verb before it does not actually go with "at".
 
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hirashin

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Thank you all for your interesting information.

It seems that some native speakers say "study English (very) hard".
Do you think it would be fine for me to teach the phrase to Japanese
students? Would "study English seriously/earnestly" sound better to
your ears?

Hirashin
 

RickNZ

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Can you study "at" a subject? Logically, if "They study hard at English" is correct then "They study at English" should be correct too, and I should be able to say "I study at Japanese", which sounds plain wrong to me.

(Edited) It occurred to me later that there may be a confusion with the expression "work at something". Because people are used to "work hard at ...", which is correct, they may perceive "hard at" as a correct combination even when the verb before it does not actually go with "at".


Actually you *can* say "study at English", the grammar is fine, but it's not very common, probably because it's saying an extra word to mean exactly the same as "study English". The verb "to study" can be transitive with the thing you're studying as the direct object, or intransitive and you can use "at" to indicate what you're studying, but that seems an unnecessary complication to use an intransitive form when you really mean it in a transitive way.
 

eeky

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Actually you *can* say "study at English", the grammar is fine, but it's not very common, probably because it's saying an extra word to mean exactly the same as "study English". The verb "to study" can be transitive with the thing you're studying as the direct object, or intransitive and you can use "at" to indicate what you're studying, but that seems an unnecessary complication to use an intransitive form when you really mean it in a transitive way.
So if I said to you "I'm studying at Japanese" you think that would be OK also?
 

RickNZ

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So if I said to you "I'm studying at Japanese" you think that would be OK also?

You can "study at" any subject that you can "study"... English, Japanese, geology, etc. It does seem to only be used when referring to actual academic subjects, not for "studying" in the sense of closely observing any random everyday thing. You can say "I studied his movements" If you were spying on someone but you wouldn't say "I studied at his movements".
 

eeky

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I remain unconvinced. I think studying "at" a subject is a marginal error. When you insert "hard" it sounds better, probably because the "study at" collocation becomes slightly obscured.
 

letianchen

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well using the word hard is often weird anyways. All of it is probably slang like "You think you're hard?!" = "Do you think you are tough?!"
 

Yzlot

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I agree, "studies hard at English" sounds weird.
It should be "He studies hard in English" for outside of classes, and "He studies hard for English" when referencing the academic course itself, shouldn't it? I've heard this variety much more than "He studies English hard," though the latter is probably proper english while the former is the colloquial version.

Thank you all for your interesting information.

It seems that some native speakers say "study English (very) hard".
Do you think it would be fine for me to teach the phrase to Japanese
students? Would "study English seriously/earnestly" sound better to
your ears?

Hirashin

Honestly, those sentences are rarely spoken. Instead, I hear "He studies english in earnest" and "He is serious in his English studies" much more often, though not as much as the 'He studies hard in english'
 

hirashin

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Thank you for your help, Yzlot.

Is ”He studies hard in English" much more common than "He studies English hard"
or "He studies hard at English"?

How about "He studies (very) hard in his English studies"?

Can your version "He studies English in earnest" be used in conversation?

Would it be all right to use "study English seriously/earnestly" in writing?

Hirashin
 
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Honestly, all of the proposed 'hard' example sentences sound a little odd to me. Both 'study hard at...' and 'study ... hard' are used, just not in exactly that way.

"They are studying hard to pass the TOEFL."
"He is studying hard for finals."
"He is studying hard at biology because he wants to get into a pre-med program after he graduates (high school)."

I think 'study hard at' is used mostly in speech when the speaker has already said 'study hard' and needs to finish the sentence somehow, although I agree that a naked 'study at (subj.)' sounds weird. You can 'study hard at English' but you can't 'study at English', counter-intuitive as that may be.


I've never heard 'he studies hard in (subject)' in my life. I'm not saying it isn't used, but it doesn't appear in the regional (American) dialects I've been exposed to nor in the British or American broadcasts that I watch. I feel that I've heard 'He studies hard in (class name)' or 'He studies hard in (school name)', within certain forms of larger sentences, but I can't easily think of an example sentence where it actually sounds natural.

As a side-note, I don't believe that 'on accident' is regional (at least not in any large region), but I believe it's young people's slang in most American regions. I think it got started on purpose as word-play because the opposite of 'on purpose' would logically be 'on accident'. (It would also be reasonable to suppose the opposite of 'by accident' should be 'by purpose'. And of course, you -can- say 'by design' and 'by intent', so it's a little odd that you can't say 'by purpose', but maybe not odd enough to make for catchy defying-the-rules wordplay the way 'on accident' has done.)

I don't know that I've ever heard anyone use 'study earnestly' or in normal speech, but it's used in writing and narration relatively often. You could hear it in a documentary, e.g., "These students are studying earnestly, knowing that their hopes for the future depend on academic success."

'study in earnest' is even more a written phrase and less likely to be spoken than 'study earnestly'. I think 'study in earnest' is most likely to show up in biographies, e.g., 'After the war, he returned to Princeton and began studying mathematics in earnest.'
 

hirashin

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Thank you so much for your detailed information about "study" and "study hard".

How about "work hard at/on English"? Is it odd to say "I'm working hard at/on English"?

Hirashin
 

RickNZ

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Thank you so much for your detailed information about "study" and "study hard".

How about "work hard at/on English"? Is it odd to say "I'm working hard at/on English"?

Hirashin

Both make sense, but "work hard on English" sounds strange. I don't know why that is. It does sound ok to say "work hard on my English".

2
 
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Hmm. I can't think of a sentence where 'work hard at English' sounds right.
'I'm working hard at English' sounds off.
I think you can only use 'work hard at' to modify a verb phrase.
'I'm working hard at designing a house'.
'I'm working hard at learning English.'

I think that you need something between 'on' and what's modified.
I agree with RickNZ here,
'I'm working hard on my English.'
'I'm working hard on a design for a house.'

If you looked in a grammar book, I'm not sure if 'my' is or isn't allowed (by people that write grammar books) to be treated as an article, but it feels right in this example that it can.
 

eeky

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How about "work hard at/on English"? Is it odd to say "I'm working hard at/on English"?
Not sure if you want even more opinions, but anyway here's my two cents.

"I'm working hard at English" sounds absolutely fine to me.

"I'm working hard on English" is acceptable for me, but seems to have connotations that the speaker is working to improve on imperfect progress. I would not use it as a plain synonym of "working hard at" in this case.

"I'm working hard in English" does not sound right for the intended meaning. However, it is possible as shorthand for "I'm working hard in my English class" or similar, e,g. if the speaker is taking several classes.
 
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Not sure if you want even more opinions, but anyway here's my two cents.
I'm American, Rick is New Zealand, and you're England so aside from individual variation your opinion is important for geographical reasons, I'm sure!

"I'm working hard at English" sounds absolutely fine to me.
Rick didn't mind this either, so maybe it's regional, but I have to wonder a little. There are phrases sometimes that we accept hearing even though we ourselves or any other native speaker wouldn't actually say them. It sounds a little off to me, and the more I consider it the more off it sounds when you substitute other subjects (that is, academic subjects; grammatically it's an object... anyway.)

Which sounds more natural though, 'I'm working hard at French' v. 'I'm working at learning French' v. 'I'm working hard on my French'. (I feel like this list is least natural to most natural.)

When the subject isn't a language, 'I'm working hard at Ancient European History' v. 'I'm working hard at learning Ancient European History.' v. (dropping the 'at' altogether) 'I'm working hard to learn Ancient European History'. Again I feel this is least natural to most natural, and I feel even more strongly that the plain 'I'm working hard at (subj.)' isn't normal when the subject isn't a language.

Of course these are all kind of stilted and forced examples anyway (though they fit to answering a question about your studies in a not-so-casual situation), and maybe there's a big difference as you cross oceans, which is really why I ask for a second thought like this.
 
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