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I'm 99% sure I've always used and read and heard "go to the effort" but I've started noticing in the past year or so that people younger than me, at least on YouTube are saying "go through the effort".

I'm Gen X. My first impulse is that this might be a Millennial English thing. But I'm Australian and even though I spent some time in the US decades ago and don't remember it, I'm not ruling out that it's a US usage where Australian English is closer to British English.

But these things can be subtle, so it might not be either of the above, and it might be a combination of them.

Does anybody know for sure? I can't seem to find any discussions of this and dictionaries don't seem to include it as an idiom to check.

Oh it just struck me that the same goes for "go to the trouble" vs "go through the trouble". The one I just heard that prompted me to post was the "effort" version, but the "trouble" version is probably more common.


Addendum: Even though I'd check dictionaries, I'd done that before I recalled that the "trouble" version would be more common than the effort version. I checked again and it turns out both Cambridge (UK) and Merriam-Webster (US) do have entries that cover 'go to the trouble' but not 'through' or 'effort'. I may have missed some.

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  • There's a lot of related phrases such as "go through the motions", "go through the wringer". Although "go to the dogs", etc. So lots of potential for confusion. I've no doubt that "go to the trouble" is valid, but "to" is not the most obvious pronoun (you're obviously experiencing trouble, but how are you going to it?)
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 27 at 16:35
  • Do you understand the difference between "Go to Sydney" and "Go through Sydney"?
    – Greybeard
    Commented May 28 at 6:27
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    @Greybeard Invalid comparison because unlike "trouble" and "effort" people have didn't recently start going "through" Sydney and don't go "through" it on a much smaller scale to that which they go "to" it. As "effort" and "trouble" are not places, the usages are metaphorical and thus idiomatic, which are not true for "Sydney". Commented May 28 at 8:18
  • For delete voters, which is the specific "community-specific" reason? Commented May 28 at 8:19
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    @StuartF To isn’t a pronoun at all – I think you meant ‘preposition’. But I would definitely say that to is the obvious pronoun. You’re not experiencing trouble when you go to the trouble of doing something; you’re inconveniencing yourself. This is the same sense of go to that we see in ‘go to great lengths’ or ‘go to extremes’: the trouble is the degree of inconvenience and effort, and we go to it since it’s the end of how far we go. Using through to refer to what lengths/troubles you go to sounds quite bizarre to me – certainly a much less obvious preposition than to. Commented May 28 at 11:45

3 Answers 3

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The relevant Google 5-grams (I recommend x 200 on Google Chrome settings, or just click on to enlarge)

enter image description here

show that there have been examples of 'go through the effort of' for many years. Though 'go to the effort of' is the more idiomatic usage, and has been since the 1910s according to the frequency graphs, the version with 'through' (and 'effort') is a sizeable minority variant.

(I had 'go to the trouble of' as a fourth variant, the one with which I'm most familiar, but it swamped the other three variants.)

'Make the effort to' is a nearby expression.

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    What makes you say that "go to the effort" is more idiomatic? The mere fact it is most of the time the more frequently used form?
    – LPH
    Commented May 27 at 16:12
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    That's the default sense of the word. 'Pertaining to idioms' is according to frequency of use a secondary sense and it needs to be pointed out if that is the intended meaning. OALD. Commented May 27 at 18:04
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    Notably, the gap between the two seems much larger in British English than in American English (though Ngrams isn't always great at classifying things).
    – alphabet
    Commented May 28 at 2:36
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    @hippietrail No, I do not mean "pertaining to idioms" but "containing expressions that are natural to a native speaker of a language" (OLD, 1), which does not make the notion of frequency of use a criterion. That is, I consider that a higher frequency of use does not make a term necessarily a more natural English form. Let's take "I gotta go" and "I have got to go" (books.google.com/ngrams/…), for instance; in fact the second is as "English" as the first.
    – LPH
    Commented May 28 at 9:04
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    It makes sense to look at constructions like 'it's not' / 'it is not' in context. In speech, the contracted form is far more idiomatic (by far the usual choice of practised Anglophones). 'Idiomatic' is gradeable [Wiktionary] Commented May 28 at 13:45
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No, it is not a variant. It means something else.

go to the effort = you make the effort to do something.

go through the effort=implies the entire experience of going to the effort.

go through an experience. Effort can be an experience.

go through in the Cambridge Dictionary:

(EXPERIENCE)

to experience something, esp. something unpleasant or difficult: She’s been going through a difficult time since her brother’s illness.

These are not regional differences. They mean different things.

[caveat: the phrasal verb has other meanings]

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    I'd have to find some instances of one speaker/writer using both in the same piece to be convinced, but I am convinced you've found the logic behind it. Commented May 28 at 1:34
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    @hippietrail Really? Both in the same piece? That's a specious arguement if I have ever heard one...
    – Lambie
    Commented May 28 at 14:10
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    @hippietrail I have heard both commonly used where I am (Canada) and would consider them equivalent. Commented May 28 at 14:55
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    @GentlePurpleRain app.ludwig.guru/s/go+through+the+effort not the same as go to the effort of [doing something], or make the effort to which are idioms.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 28 at 14:59
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    Whatever subtle shade of meaning you are alluding to here, I don't see it. How is "the experience of going to the effort" different from simply "going to the effort"? Can you give examples where either are preferable, or a scenario where something would be implied by one but not the other? I don't see any possible circumstance where one could "go to the effort" but not actually experience the effort, or "go through the effort" without making the effort. The phrases strike me as utterly synonymous. Commented May 28 at 18:31
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I'm not very experienced on this forum, but I can offer my 2 cents on this phrase. What's tripping the OP up here are the prepositions through and to, so I'm going to borrow Greybeard's comment here:

Do you understand the difference between "Go to Sydney" and "Go through Sydney"?

I live in Texas and I want to travel to Sydney, so I buy some tickets on an Airplane, until I arrive in Sydney Australia at the Airport.

Oops, I just realized I'm meeting someone in Brisbane, but since I've got a week to sightsee, I'll rent a car and sightsee as I drive up the coast to Brisbane. I rent a car and drive north through Sydney, and again through Newcastle, continuing North along the coastline through the other cities for nearly 10 hours until I stop at my Hotel.

I've now gone to Sydney via plane and to my hotel via car by driving through some cities in Australia.

A nuance of prepositions sometimes has to do with location (and the location may not be a physical place, as the phrases the OP chose depict). In Greybeard's comment he was asking if the OP knew the difference between going to a point, and stopping, and going through a point, and continuing until the end.

If I "go to the effort" which sounds odd to me as an English speaker and a Gen X'er, it implies I've stopped and am waiting at the beginning of some task(where the effort will be used) until either I decide my approach, or someone tells me the approach. The way I would normally say this using the phrase below is:

I'm not going through the effort of (some task)

which may imply I got to the task, but did nothing, or I decided I would avoid it all together

If I "go through the effort", which I've always used when speaking, I'm implying to others that I arrived at something tough to accomplish and figured out how to accomplish the task on my own (I put the effort into the task and completed it, thereby reaching the end).


Side note: I had an English teacher long ago who told her students that prepositions were like flowers next to a tree. The flowers could grow up the tree, down the tree, around the tree, and even through the tree if a hole was cut. Almost any word that can be used as a preposition can apply an action to the tree, i.e., I need to go to that particular tree. I wish I could find a reference to back this up, and it would probably make more sense than a side note.

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    Prepositions are often used idiomatically in the sense 'in ways logic/prototypical meaning wouldn't suggest'. Why do we say 'on a train / bus / tram' while 'in a car' seems to illustrate the more sensible choice? 'Go to the trouble of ...' is (still) by far the most common of the four variants I mentioned: it would soar off the ngram graph at the scale shown. Commented May 28 at 18:10
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    @EdwinAshworth I totally agree, but being new here, I didn'y know how to incorporate the n-gram plus the one you incorporated looked as point proving as my story here.
    – eyoung100
    Commented May 28 at 18:15
  • Again, I addressed everything you say. go to the effort is not go through it.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 28 at 18:38
  • "Go to the effort" does sound odd when we think about it, precisely because it is idiomatic. One (two?) common thing in language change is simplification/reanalysis where idiomatic turns of speech that aren't that logical get replaced by ones that are more logical, but were not previously idiomatic. These new variants will be idiomatic to subsequent generations and sometimes but not always are also adopted by previous generations. ("invest into" is replacing "invest in" across generations but "on accident" is only replacing "by accident" in younger generations.) Commented May 29 at 4:26
  • Prepositions are indeed one of the most subtle and nuance-filled part of most languages, as are cases in languages that have them. But I assure you I am not tripped up by them in English as I've been a native English speaker for over fifty years. (In other languages I try to learn I am frequently tripped up by them.) Commented May 29 at 4:28

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