Let's suppose all four members (parents and a son and a daughter) of a family are travelling by their to another city and in that journey a car accident takes place and subsequently three members pass away and just the family daughter survives. Which one of the following sentences do not sound natural in English to describe the feelings of the girl after the accident:

-1- Her spirits have really been damaged by this incident.

-2- Her soul has really been damaged by this incident.

-3- Her morale has really been damaged by this incident.

-4- Her spirits have really been harmed by this incident.

-5- Her soul has really been harmed by this incident.

-6- Her morale has really been harmed by this incident.

-7- Her spirits have really been hurt by this incident.

-8- Her soul has really been hurt by this incident.

-9- Her morale has really been hurt by this incident.

The sentences above are just the various translations of the one single and the only possible way of saying the same thing in our language, and this is a type of question that google and google Ngram cannot help me. Because I am looking for a /some perhaps fixed combinations between the names (Morale / spirit / soul) and the verbs (harm / hurt and damage).

I was wondering if you could help me to find out if there is any combination in the listed sentences above that does not sound idiomatic or even natural to a native ear.

  • 1
    "Spirits" refers in a general way to emotional frame of mind or outlook. They can be up or down and up or down for no specific cause. "Morale" refers to somewhat the same characteristic, but is used in connection with facing opposition, hardship, or stress. "Soul" doesn't refer to mental outlook. It refers more to the essence of a person, what makes them who they are. Spirits or morale can be improved quickly by changing the situation. Soul doesn't go up or down (referring of course in the sense of mood, not heaven/hell). (cont'd)
    – fixer1234
    Mar 24, 2017 at 4:24
  • Damaging someone's soul is harm to their core, fundamental destruction of who they are as a person. If the damage can be recovered from, it would be a long-term proposition. Of the three terms, "soul" would be appropriate for the situation you describe--a child's loss of their entire family, which would be devastating. "Morale" or "spirits" would be more appropriate for what a friend or co-worker would experience, or even the loss of a single relative that did not leave the person completely devastated. Paul S's answer on usage in a sentence is good.
    – fixer1234
    Mar 24, 2017 at 4:24
  • @fixer1234 thank you very much for the quite clear-cut response, but as the last question, please let me know if the sentence "Her soul has been (damaged / harmed) by this incident" sounds natural to you or as Paul S mentioned, the verb "crush" goes better here.
    – A-friend
    Mar 25, 2017 at 13:48
  • 1
    "Damaged" or "harmed" aren't really terms that would be applicable to "soul". "Soul" isn't something that varies by degrees or would be mildly damaged. If you're talking about "soul" it would only be in terms that reflect utter devastation. So "crushed" is a good word, one that might be used. Also, the answer mentions use of "soul crushing job". That would be a way to be melodramatic. "Soul crushing" would normally be associated with something like your scenario here, so it would be used as a form of exaggeration when applied to something like a job.
    – fixer1234
    Mar 25, 2017 at 16:28

1 Answer 1


Her spirits were crushed is a fairly common idiom. One can say "Her spirit was crushed" or "It really crushed my spirits". Generally one would not say that person spirit was "harmed" or "damaged" but this would be understood.

You can also say that morale was crushed, and it's not uncommon to say morale was harmed or hurt. Saying morale was crushed would be more informal or more severe, for example, a history might say "after the defeat morale was crushed". Saying it was "hurt" or "harmed" would be more formal, for example in a report on the effects of a new office policy might say "we believe the removal of free snacks from the break room may harm morale."

The term is sometimes used that someone's soul was crushed, but the term is so severe it is often used when one is being somewhat dramatic. For example "it's a soul crushing job" usually means the job is not interesting and you don't like working there. To use it in full seriousness you would have to be talking about an event that totally destroyed a person. Harmed or hurt are not commonly used in reference to souls, but your meaning would be generally understood.

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