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Although we can look back in anger, we can't fall into it.

I might argue that the phrase, to fall in love, has something to do with being helpless, of letting go and losing control. But what about anger? When we're angry we lose control of our temper, we find ourselves in a "different" state, so why don't we say fall in anger or fall in hatred?

Has it always been so? Is there any grammatical, linguistic reason or justification?

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    I would parse "Don't fall in anger" in the same way as "Don't leave in anger" or "Don't go to bed angry"; that is, I am exhorting you not to let your anger blind you or cloud your judgement such that you fall down and hurt yourself. If I wanted to construct a sentence similar to "Don't fall in love", I'd say "Don't fall into anger". As to why? I have no flippin' idea. – Dan Bron Nov 21 '14 at 16:55
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    You can't fall in anger, but you can rise in anger. Your suggested common denominator of "losing control" in both love and anger seems a bit forced. – Daniil Agashiyev Dec 23 '14 at 21:39
  • Related discussion: Why do we say 'fall in love'; is it something unwished for? – Sven Yargs Feb 15 '15 at 19:05
  • @SvenYargs There's also this question of mine that asks about fall in: If I can “fall in” love, can I “fall in” depression? – Mari-Lou A Feb 15 '15 at 21:05
  • Just as a though: might the falling in love stem from this feeling of butterflies in your stomach, that also occurs while riding a roller coaster, but (at least for me) not during the uprise of anger? – skymningen Mar 3 '15 at 8:35
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I think that the most hard-to-explain idiomatic wording here is "fall in love with." After all, we don't say that we "fall in friendship with," "fall in sorrow with," "fall in appreciation with," "fall in envy with," or "fall in fear with" others, any more than we "fall in anger" with them.

And yet we don't seem to view love as existing entirely on a separate plateau from other emotional states, as is evident from the broad applicability of such phrases as "yield to anger," "yield to love," "yield to sorrow," "yield to kindness," "yield to envy," and "yield to fear."

The earliest confirmable Google Books matches for the idiom "fall/falls/fell/falling in love" is in the title of poem by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, who was executed by Henry VIII in 1547; the poem is headed "The Lover curseth the tyme when fyrst he fell in love." And Shakespeare uses the phrase at least four times in As You Like It alone. From As You Like It, act 1, scene 2:

Rosalind. From henceforth I will, Coz, and devise Sport: Let me see, what think you of falling in Love!

From act 3, scene 5:

Rosalind. He's fall'n in love with your Foulness, and she'll/Fall in love with my Anger.

...

Rosalind. I pray you do not do not fall in love with me,/For I am falser than Vows made in Wine;/Besides I like you not.

...

Phoebe. There be some women, Sylvius, had they mark'd him/In Parcels as I did, would have gone near/To fall in Love with him ; but for my part/I love him not, nor hate him not ;

As to why sixteenth-century (and perhaps earlier) English writers and speakers adopted the idiom falling in love, I speculate that then, as now, the intense rush of giddiness that a person suddenly and deeply in love experiences fully justifies equating that feeling with falling through the air—even to the point of not knowing whether the landing will be gentle and soft or abrupt and hard.

With emotions such as anger or sadness, people sometimes use the phrase "fall into X" (where X is the emotion in question). For example, a 1793 translation of Seneca's Morals has this passage:

All that we have to say in particular upon this subject ["Cautions against anger in the matter of education, converse, and other general rules of preventing it, both in ourselves and others"] lies under these two heads ; first, that we do not fall into anger ; and, secondly, that we do not transgress in it. As in the case of our bodies, we have some medicines to preserve us when we are well, and others to recover us when we are sick ; so it is one thing not to admit it, and another thing to overcome it.

This quotation (one of 3,510 matches that a Google Books search claims to find for "fall into anger") is especially interesting because it draws a parallel between anger and sickness—and in English we idiomatically say that someone "falls ill" or "fell sick." The notion that anger, like sickness, is an undesirable state that a person may fall into seems fundamentally different from the idea of "falling in love"—as if love were the fluid one is immersed in and passing through. To the limited extent that people speaking of falling into love, the emphasis is on the accidental or unexpected nature of the occurrence; far more often we refer to falling in love—to the exhilarating state of falling itself.

And yet, people have for centuries also recognized a close association between love and sickness, as we see in this extract from Barnabe Barnes, Parthenophil and Parthenophe (1593) [snippet]:

Both Loves and Graces strive to mend her./O never let me rest; but sigh and weep!/Never but weep and sigh! "Sick is my Love;/And I love-sick! Yet physic may befriend her!/But what shall my disease remove?"

Nevertheless, lovesickness seems generally to be identified as a form of sickness more strongly than as a form of love, and for this reason I would expect English speakers to be more inclined to speak of "falling into lovesickness" than of "falling in lovesickness."

  • We fall ill, sick, pregnant (if we're female), victim, etc. We fall lots of things, mostly negative ones. I wonder if the French tomber amoureux has anything to do with the English one. In French you also fall lots of adjectives, one of them being amoureux; but English doesn't really have a native adjective to correspond, so I suppose the prepositional phrase could just be a way of calquing amoureux? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 3 '15 at 2:01
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This isn’t the “in anger” that you mean, but I think that anything that we can do can be done “in anger,” even “fall” and weirdly enough, maybe even “love”: “The parachutist, whose one true love was still parachuting in spite of his chute’s failure, quickly understood what it meant to love in anger while falling in anger to his death.”

Anyway, here’s a stab at answering your actual question:

As a naïve optimist, I believe that “love” is the normal state of existence that we are either currently “in” or “not in” and that “hatred” and even “anger” are aberrant states, best described as the temporary absence of the norm. Although we’re designed to be able to temporarily “experience” and “feel” these aberrant states, we (and our language as an extension of ourselves) are not designed to be able to fall and permanently exist “in” them (nor describe such a state with our language). Perhaps the ancient poets and scribes who helped to “finalized” our language were naïve optimists like me!

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    I've had time to mull over your answer, you're approaching it from a philosophical angle, which I don't disapprove of, but I am looking for a "language" reason. Besides, love can be as short as a summer rain, and anger can last a life time. I have known people who have have not spoken to their relatives in twenty years because of a tort. And I know people who fall in and out of love twice a month! – Mari-Lou A Nov 23 '14 at 20:14
  • You're right on all accounts! The two parenthetical mentions of language, including "language as an extension...," were my feeble attempts to somehow tie the philosophical and linguistic angles together. Major fail!! – Papa Poule Nov 23 '14 at 20:52
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It is just an idiomatic expression. "To fall in love" is not the same as " to be in love". Love as phenomenon is more interesting from psychological or historical point of view, so, different phrases are used to describe it. " We do not say as well "be in anger" or "be in hatred." Between, the verb "love" and the noun "love" have the same spelling and pronunciation.

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