Is this usage of "to have difficulty with" ok?

I've been having some difficulty with reading the books that I decide to read.

A Google search suggested that the "with" may perhaps be dropped, but I'd prefer to keep it if it is ok. A noun after "having difficulty with" seems more clearly ok, like in "I'm having difficulty with the homework", but I wasn't sure about the quoted sentence above.

  • 1
    The with is a verbosity: it's redundant. Why do you want to keep it? It does no work in the sentence: it adds no meaning or clarity; it merely increases the word count. Delete it for better style. Keep it if you prefer: it's your sentence, so it's your choice.
    – user21497
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 5:39
  • Thanks for your comment. The original version of the sentence was slightly different--"I've been having a bit of difficulty with reading some of the things I decide to read."--and the with seemed helpful in that version, for some reason. I think I'll drop it as you say.
    – Azo
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 6:02
  • The addition of with brings in a subtle difference in meaning. Please research and edit your question with your findings. See: 1 [uncountable] if you have difficulty with something, you are not able to do it easily; 2 [countable] a problem (macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/difficulty)
    – Kris
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 7:21
  • @Kris, on the Macmillan page, with is used for both [uncountable] and [countable] difficulty, so the page seems no reference for "a subtle difference in meaning." Commented May 13, 2016 at 18:52

2 Answers 2


difficulty reading the books suggests some external mechanism is hampering your reading. Perhaps the books are hard to obtain, water damaged, or in an impenetrable dialect or high register.

difficulty with reading the books suggests an internal / subjective barrier. Perhaps you don't enjoy the genre, or are not sufficiently advanced in study of the topic.

  • Thank you. Do you have a reference for this distinction? Or could you refer me to some usage examples online?
    – Azo
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 8:37
  • Perhaps you could have put it a bit differently. "With suggests an internal/ subjective barrier, while its absence does not expressly."
    – Kris
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 11:15
  • 2
    Interesting. I would use them precisely the opposite way, but that's normal for a semantic distinction based on personal experience and idiolect. There are millions of possible alternations like this, and most of them don't have any meaning difference, unless somebody decides they want to use one to express some distinction. Then they do, and if it catches on, it becomes part of the language. But most don't. Commented May 5, 2013 at 14:24

The with is extra when using a verb (such as difficulty with reading the...), but is needed when using a noun (can't say having difficulty the homework).

  • Thanks. When you say "extra", do you mean "unnecessary but possibly ok", or "not ok"?
    – Azo
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 4:47

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