The New York Times (August 17) reported that the N.F.L. has decided to cracked down on several players who wear fierce and funky face masks to make them look tougher or cooler under the headline, “Uniform police give face masks a closer look.” The N.F.L. considers the use of such accessorized helmets without a legitimate medical reason violates the league’s uniform policy. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/sports/football/NFL-uniform-police-give-face-masks-a-closer-look.html?ref=sports?src=dayp&_r=0

The article reads:

“Gone is Brian Orakpo’s corrugated headgear, modeled after the Batman villain Bane, and Darnell Dockett’s square-bottomed mask, which looked oddly like a panini grill. Tuck’s face mask fans, however, can rest easily. He provided N.F.L. officials with documentation, signed by the team doctor and head athletic trainer, certifying that his mask protected his neck by preventing opponents from grabbing it.”

I was drawn to the phrase, “Tuck’s face mask fans can rest easily.” I can find the idiom, “rest easy” in the meanings of “(1) not to worry - CED” and “(2) go to sleep without worries – OED” in any of English dictionaries at hand, but no dictionary carries “rest easily” as an idiom, because I think, it’s a simple combination of verb and adverb.

However, I’m interested in what’s the difference is between “rest easy’ shown in “This insurance policy will let you rest easy “ shown as a sample in OED and “rest easily” in “Tuck’s face mask fans can rest easily” in the above quote.

Does the addition of two letters - ‘ly’- make any difference? If it does, what’s the difference?

  • I assume you mean 'rest easy'. Here, easy is used as a predicative adjective ( grammar.about.com/od/pq/g/predadjterm.htm ) after the verb rest used as a link verb. Compare stand still, sit tight, fall flat - the adjective speaks of the (initial / final / enduring / hoped-for) state of the referent rather than any action / state described by the verb. Contrast 'The sailors easily stood on the deck' (adverb describes how easy it was for them to stand) with 'The sailors stood easy on the deck' (adjective describes the [posture of the] sailors). Aug 17, 2013 at 22:14
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    For what it's worth: There's a neat saying you do not hear too often anymore, but it could prove useful, and that is "rest assured," as in "You can rest assured, Tuck's face mask fans, that his team doctor OK'd him to wear the mask." In other words, Tuck's fans can rest, assured that he will still wear the mask. No charge. Aug 17, 2013 at 23:01

1 Answer 1


Dictionaries sometimes give a specific definition for rest easy (to relax and stop feeling worried) because both it and the virtually identical breathe easy aren't exactly being used literally. You probably weren't really having difficult breathing before something relaxed you and allowed you to "breathe easy".

But they won't be likely to define rest/breathe easily because that's normally only used in an absolutely literal sense. If you have trouble with your sinuses, you might take a decongestant to help you breathe easily.

One can thus understand easy in such contexts as meaning at your ease, in a relaxed manner (cf take it easy), as opposed to the more literal easily = without undue difficulty.

That distinction isn't absolute though. OP's citation is an instance of rest easily being used figuratively, and people also sometimes use rest/breathe easy in the literal sense.

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    Although one can find an authority claiming that this usage of easy is adverbial rather than adjectival, I believe it is more sensible to consider it as modifying the person resting rather than the manner of resting. Certainly Cobuild labels still in 'she stood still' as an adverb following a link-like (ie linking but also carrying semantic content) verb. Aug 18, 2013 at 23:08
  • @Edwin: Absolutely agree - rest easy is really more like be easy/at ease, which is effectively an adjectival use applied to the person, not the particular verb be, stand, rest, etc. Aug 19, 2013 at 1:48
  • A really hard one is 'Ronaldo shot wide' - resultative or manner? Aug 19, 2013 at 8:56
  • @Edwin: Quite. My What exactly is an “adverb”? was very nearly closed before enough people gave it enough thought to realise that the terminology doesn't always "map" to usage accurately or consistently. But off the cuff I'd say shoot wide is the same as stop short, jump clear, etc. (they adjectivally modify the "end result", which is why we'd never use the adverbial -ly suffix). More tricky to me is his blood ran free, where you could use freely (imho, without affecting the "real" grammar or meaning, but what do I know? :) Aug 19, 2013 at 13:07

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