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have a hard time (doing smth) have a hard time with (smth)

In the phrase: "have a hard time understanding" was used verb "understand" in -ing form, but "understand" is state verb and don't has -ing fom. "Understanding" is noun, so it must be used in the phrase like this "have a hard time with understanding". However, Google by requests "have a hard time understanding" and "have a hard time with understanding" gave me many results, so i don't know now that which are more correct?

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Welcome to EL&U Sergey! Just in case this gets closed before anyone more knowledgeable answers, I just wanted to say that "have a hard time understanding (you, the situation, algebra, etc.) is perfectly grammatical though I could not find an exact usage in my online sources that actually explains what role "understanding" plays in that phrase. That's where the "big guns" could come in handy! Best of luck! –  Kristina Lopez Mar 5 '13 at 18:25
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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Understand is certainly used as a stative verb, but it is also used in certain senses as a transformational verb. Contrast the following two senses defined by Collins:

understand (verb)

  1. (may take a clause as object) to know and comprehend the nature or meaning of I understand you I understand what you mean

  2. (may take a clause as object) to realize or grasp (something) he understands your position

The second definition (if not the example given) indicates a realising, a grasping hold of. 'Have a hard time (with) understanding X' means 'have difficulties mastering the concept'; the struggle may take quite a time, but the eureka moment be - well, momentary. Here, a growing understanding makes classification into process or sudden transformation difficult.

Some verbs may take a preposition as well as an equivalent prepositionless completer:

They fought with / against the Germans. ('with' ambiguous!)

They fought the Germans.

Perhaps here, a better analysis is to realise that 'understanding' retains both verbal and nounal properties, encouraging the omission of and the retention of 'with' respectively.

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