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I would like to know the difference between "suffer" and "suffer from". From the dictionary, I cannot distinguish between them. In particular, which of the following should I use:

  • suffer interference from other transmitters
  • suffer from interference from other transmitters
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5 Answers 5

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I disagree with VB.NET LEARNER. There are two different verbs.

The common one is intransitive, so either has no object, or the object is indirect, with from. The literal meaning is "feel pain", as

How he suffers!

I suffer from a bad back

but it is often used figuratively, with meanings like "be inconvenienced"

He suffers from his bad decisions.

The other verb is transitive (takes a direct object), and is rather literary. It means undergo, or experience, usually with a negative connotation, and often with an implication that one is resolutely accepting the experience. A more colloquial equivalent would be put up with:

He suffered the indignity of an examination.

We suffered a power cut yesterday.

There are some cases where both would work, but with different meanings. So

Freddie suffers from his bad decisions

means that his (maybe Freddy's own, maybe somebody else's) decisions affect Freddy and make life difficult for him; but

Freddie suffers his bad decisions

(which as I say is somewhat literary) means that Freddie is affected by his (somebody else's) bad decisions, but carries on nevertheless.

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  • I suspect that, in America at least, outside the expression "suffer the little children," we have made "suffer from" equivalent to "suffer." The "literary usage" is in fact an obsolete usage. I'd laugh if someone used it in an e-mail. "I will not suffer another unscheduled reboot!" Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 17:39
  • It's not obsolete to me. But I wouldn't use it with "I will (not)", because that intentionality doesn't seem to fit its meaning.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 23:21
  • It's not obsolete to me either. It's still well understood. Commented May 30, 2020 at 11:32
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“Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 19:1

So “suffer” by itself can also mean allow.

The Oxford Dictionary on-line has:

archaic Tolerate.
‘France will no longer suffer the existing government’

But I’m not sure about it being ‘archaic’ as it also has the living example in the phrase:

‘he was a perfectionist who didn’t suffer fools gladly’

As for the examples the poster gives, they really belong on SE English Language Learners. The same page of the Oxford Dictionary on-line has examples of suffer and suffer from, but does not really explain the difference. I imagine this is possible, but for native speakers it is a question of usage. The examples on that page clearly indicate that:

suffer from interference from other transmitters

would be correct, corresponding to example 1.1; and ommitting the ‘from’ does not correspond to any of the examples there without ‘from’, and appears strange to me.

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I think it depends on the question asked or info you want to convey. I'm not very knowledgeable when it comes to English grammar and I am not a native English speaker, but look at the following example:

(If you will look at these sentences, it seems that all of them say the same thing. But if you analyze them, what they convey seems different)

Mr. X is suffering from his illness <<<< more focused on how the person is

Mr. X is suffering with his Illness <<<< more focused on what brought the person to his state

Mr. X is suffering on/over his illness <<<< more focus on how the person feels about it

Ms. Y is suffering from her decision <<<< more focused on how the person is

Ms. Y is suffering with her decision <<<< more focused on what brought the person to his state

Ms. Y is suffering on/over her decision <<<< more focus on how the person feels about it

I edited the comments in italics, as I think they're simpler to understand that way

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  • You're missing the obvious case from the question "Mr.X suffers his illness". Commented May 30, 2020 at 11:25
  • "suffers" is just a verb... you can use "is suffering" or "suffers" depends on your preference. You can actually use "suffer" if the subject is plural, and the other form will be "are suffering"
    – Matt
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 11:32
  • Ahhh... Okay, I see
    – Matt
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 11:40
  • Have you found documented uses of the prepositions "on" and "over" with "suffer"? Commented May 30, 2020 at 11:42
  • Honestly, No. But, analytically, I think it can be used that way so I used it. And I think it makes sense. Do you have any way to use the word suffer in a scenario that a person is having a regret?
    – Matt
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 11:46
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I found '... developing countries that have suffered from the impacts of climate change'. I think it would be better without the 'from', but it would slightly change the meaning. 'suffered the impacts' would mean the impacts had affected them. 'suffered from the impacts' would mean they had experienced suffering as a result of the impacts.

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  • This would benefit from some clarification on whether this applies to the use of "suffer" and "suffer from" in just this case or more generally. Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 12:28
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There is no difference ,the verb 'suffer' means the same . 'From' is a preposition added to compliment a sentence and acts as a conjunction to indicate the reason.

e.g

If you say someone suffers, it means that they are enduring physical or emotional pain. If you want to say what is causing the suffering, you add the preposition from and name the cause.

Freddie is really suffering. (The cause? Nobody knows or they are not saying.)

Freddie is suffering from his injury. Freddie suffers from an illness. Freddie suffers from his bad decisions.

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  • Hi @VB.NET, thank you for your answer. So, from your answer, may I say if we want to state what is causing the suffering, we need to add "from". So in your opinion, I should say "suffer from interference from other transmitters", right?
    – Chang
    Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 13:44

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