I forgo my happiness and sadness all the time.

I forgo my happiness and my sadness all the time.

How are the two sentences different? And what do they connote?


Frederick Douglass wrote three autobiographies: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881). The second and third titles seem relevant to the OP's question because they appear to go in opposite directions: Douglass could have titled his second autobiography My Bondage and Freedom, an he could have titled the third one The Life and the Times of Frederick Douglass. But he didn't. Why?

To reach a satisfactory answer to that question, it seems to me, we need to consider two questions: (1) Does My Bondage and My Freedom differ in meaning from My Bondage and Freedom, and does Life and Times of Frederick Douglass differ in meaning from The Life and the Times of Frederick Douglass? (2) If the two options in each pair do differ in meaning, what about their difference in each case led Douglass to choose the option he did?

To my mind, the chief distinctions between My Bondage and My Freedom and My Bondage and Freedom involve the degree of separation between the two things (bondage and freedom) and the emphasis on each thing's belonging distinctly to Douglass. For Douglass, of course, bondage and freedom were separate chapters in his life—first life under slavery, and then life as a free man. So My Bondage and My Freedom makes sense as a way of talking about each experience as separate, nonoverlapping periods in his life. The repetition of My makes the title seem (to me) more personalized and more precise.

The wording My Bondage and Freedom might be read as being personal about bondage and generalized about freedom. Or it might be taken to suggest a kind of mixed condition of simultaneous bondage and freedom, in which bondage and freedom cease to be two distinct (and indeed polar opposite) things and instead become an indeterminate state in which the two opposites somehow coexist.

The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, meanwhile, suggests that life and times are complementary subjects that may be addressed simultaneously or at least seamlessly in a narrative. The Life and the Times of Frederick Douglass, in contrast, gives the impression that the life of Frederick Douglass and the times of Frederick Douglass will be treated separately, as distinct subjects.

Turning at long last to the poster's question (in the question title) about the difference between "my happiness and sadness" and "my happiness and my sadness," it seems to me that we face the same issues here as we do with My Bondage and Freedom and My Bondage and My Freedom: "my happiness and sadness" suggests the simultaneous existence and perhaps intermingling of the two emotions; "my happiness and my sadness" suggests that each exists in a more or less pure state, even though it and its opposite may take turns ruling the human being they reside in.

There may be, in any event, a large difference between what is syntactically there in alternative formulations such as those that the poster asks about and what a reader or hearer may read into the two alternatives by way of distinguishing between them. For this reason, a grammar analyst may conclude "No difference" while a person interested in the effects of wording choices in speech or writing may be conscious (whether that consciousness is logically justifiable or not) of nontrivial difference in their nuance, and conclude "Significantly different."

| improve this answer | |

The connotations are slightly different. "I forgo my happiness and sadness all the time." may mean that the speaker is denying himself feelings in general because he has no time to talk. "I forgo my happiness and my sadness all the time." may imply that the speaker is burdened by particular experiences that are happiness and other particular experiences that are sad, but he chooses not to talk about them because he has no confidants. The context should show which is meant.

| improve this answer | |

Repeating the article gives more emphasis to the second noun. Only do this when you need to -- it can slow down the flow.

| improve this answer | |

They are identical. Like in:

  • Those are my house and car.
  • That is my house and that is my car.


  • I need a nail and hammer to do it!
  • I need a nail and a hammer to do it!
| improve this answer | |
  • The first example does not make it identical. The first sentence implies you designate both at the same time, while the second one implies you designate the house then the car. – Irhala Nov 25 '16 at 13:54
  • @irhala I don't agree, but this can be true too. Try it with your finger. If it were Those are two of my cars. - That is my car and that is my car. Then you'd be right! – SovereignSun Nov 25 '16 at 13:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.