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At this time/At this point, we can tell a boy and a man apart by what they do.

I want to express the situation like a disaster suddenly happened in a family.

Is my sentence right or wrong, can you understand it?

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I think your sentence is fine, but you might consider changing your opening clause:

In times like these, we can tell a boy and a man apart by what they do.

This expression is often used to refer to a current episode of trials or troubles.

There is nothing wrong with “At this time” or “At this point”, but neither of those implies a time of hardship the way “In times like these” does.

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In part, what you're trying to say seems a bit odd because it's so close to an existing idiom in English. It almost sounds as if you were trying to use separate the men from the boys or sort out the men from the boys but failed.

This is what separates the men from the boys.

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It's understandable, but it's not completely clear. You wrote,

"...,at this time/at this point, we can tell a boy and a man apart by what they do."

I would rewrite it to say,

"...,at this time/at this point, we can tell a boy and a man apart based upon what each one does."

That doesn't mean yours is wrong; it just means that mine points out the boy and man better. Yours is fine, however, and it's a very good sentence.

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  • I think this suggestion is a step in the wrong direction. The brevity of the original has a nice ring to it. – J.R. Oct 22 '17 at 11:18
  • The other one is briefer and I did say hers is a very good sentence; I just liked separating a boy from a man in the following clause to show how different they are. – Nick Oct 22 '17 at 15:18
  • You said that your version "points out the boy and man better” [emphasis added]. I’m just saying that I disagree. I wouldn’t want the OP or other learners to come here and think your version constitutes an improvement. – J.R. Oct 22 '17 at 18:02
  • Okay, you disagree. It may be a matter of semantics. In essence, they mean the same thing pretty much, but I thought my version was more stylistic and added emphasis. If it were trying to tell two boys apart, I would definitely not care and say "by what they do". If you disagree, it is merely preference. I said that neither was wrong and I think you would agree with that. – Nick Oct 22 '17 at 18:58

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