There is a sentence which can be translated into English like this:

  • My life has its ups and downs.
  • My life has ups and downs.

My suggested translation was "There are ups and downs in my life". I was told that was wrong.

For the life of me, I can't figure out what is wrong with this translation!

Dear native speakers, could you please tell me if the 3rd option differs significantly from the first two?

Is there a shade of meaning in it that I'm not feeling?

Does 'Life' really have to be the subject? Can't the meaning be conveyed in an impersonal way? (using "there is / there are")


  • It doesn't have to be the subject, but it is perfectly idiomatic for it to be. It is exactly the same with French Sa vie est normal. – WS2 Feb 9 '16 at 11:27
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    "There are ups and downs in my life." is perfectly grammatical. But "My life has its ups and downs." is what say 80% of native speakers would choose 80% of the time: it's idiomatic. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 9 '16 at 12:28
  • Your teacher may have expectations about translation, like keeping it as close to literal as possible. Even though your sentence is perfectly grammatical and means almost the same thing, the emphasis is different and it uses very different syntax ('there is X in Y' vs 'Y has X'). – Mitch Feb 9 '16 at 14:54
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    It's not that you're insensitive to a shade of meaning, only that you're insensitive to a shade of idiomatic preference for the syntax of one construction over another. – GoldenGremlin Feb 9 '16 at 14:55

Although your three versions are grammatical and equivalent, and although you can use phrase it using there is / there are, the standard idiom in common use is:

Life has its ups and downs.

(Link to an example.)

There's even a website with that phrase as the main part of its domain name.

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