When describing someone who is reclusive is it better to say:

He was difficult to access.


He was difficult of access.

  • Please include the research you've done, or consider if your question suits our English Language Learners site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. Aug 13, 2015 at 10:20
  • 68,700,000 Google hits for "hard to talk to". Aug 13, 2015 at 10:26
  • @EdwinAshworth - I don't get the connexion. Could you elaborate? Aug 13, 2015 at 11:09
  • @JanusBahsJacquet - In my opinion this is a non-trivial question. Please feel free to comment on my answer, below. Aug 13, 2015 at 11:17
  • @chasly Would you say of a reserved person 'He is difficult to access'? I'd use that for say the President. Aug 13, 2015 at 11:18

1 Answer 1


..is it better to say "he was difficult to access" or "he was difficult of access"?

It depends what you mean by 'better'.

He was difficult to access.

In this case, 'to access' is the infinitive of the verb. This way of writing it is common and idiomatic. For native speakers, it looks 'obvious'. However the grammatical structure is not so obvious. I am not even sure whether 'to access' is an adverbial phrase modifying 'was' or one modifying 'difficult.'

He was difficult of access.

Here, 'access' is a noun. This form occurs idiomatically in English in other phrases such as, He was hard of hearing.


The choice is one of idiom rather than logic or grammar. In past centuries the second version might have been acceptable. Today, only the first is used. You should say, He was difficult to access.


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