Let's assume that a person feels really down after a failure and now he's severely suffering from the situation they're in.

How each sentences below changes the meaning of my context?

Be hopeful Jerry! You're my friend! I want your own good! Not only now, but......................

1) don't be hopeless
2) don't ever get discouraged
3) don't ever get disappointed

I know that #3 is not natural in this sense, but I wonder why?

According to the dictionaries:

Discouraged --> no longer having the confidence you need to continue doing something

Disappointed --> unhappy because someone or something was not as good as you hoped or expected, or because something did not happen

So, they both should work here in a very similar meaning; although I have no idea how can I distinguish between these two.

1 Answer 1


Both Don't be discouraged and Don't be disappointed are perfectly natural things to say, and in many contexts they'll effectively mean the same thing - speaker is advising someone to look on the bright side (to find good things in a bad situation).

As OP has discovered, the dictionary definitions are somewhat different, but they're obviously closely related. A "defeatist" reaction to finding yourself in a bad situation might include either or both of disappointment and discouragement, but in practice using either word will often imply the other anyway.

But if we include an "intensifier" like ever / never, there's a good reason why Don't ever be disappointed is far less likely advice than Don't ever be discouraged.

When you're already in some specific "bad situation" to which you're reacting negatively (disappointment and/or discouragement), people may quite naturally advise you to change your reaction (often, you can't change the situation itself, just your reaction to it).

But when ever / never is included in the utterance, it's non-specific "lifetime advice". And the obvious way to avoid ever being discouraged is to have more courage / faith / optimism (as a positive permanent aspect of your character, not just a reaction to a specific situation).

On the other hand, the most obvious way to avoid ever being disappointed (through some permanent aspect of your character) is to be a life-long pessimist (never get your hopes up in the first place). But being a pessimist is generally thought of as a negative character attribute, so people won't often advise you to go down that path.

In any specific situation, you might avoid disappointment by putting in a lot of effort to ensure nothing goes wrong. But as "lifetime advice" that approach won't mean you'll never be disappointed, because lots of bad situations are unforeseeable and/or unpreventable. Clearly it makes a difference whether someone's advising you to change your reaction to a specific situation, or to avoid ever having that reaction.

In short, permanently avoiding discouragement implies being courageous / resolute (good attribute), whereas permanently avoiding disappointment implies lacking hope / ambition (bad attribute).

Note that idiomatic You're hopeless! doesn't mean You lack optimism - it means You're useless!

  • Therefore @FumbleFingers "Don't be hopeless" would be wrong, because it means "don't be useless". Right?
    – A-friend
    Jun 15, 2019 at 15:43
  • However, though I read your answer two times, but unfortunately, I did nit understand why "don't ever get disappointed" doesn't work, while "don't ever get discouraged" works? I wonder if you could simplify your answer a bit. ;)
    – A-friend
    Jun 15, 2019 at 15:46
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    @A-friend: Perhaps I should try getting the point across in a comment first. Suppose someone advises you to avoid ever being disappointed. I think that implies You should try be the kind of person to whom disappointment never happens, which in my book equates to You should never have any hopes; that way you won't be disappointed when they fail to materialise. Which is pretty pessimistic / pointless advice, I'd say. Whereas if they advise you to avoid ever being discouraged, they're effectively advising you to always have hope (don't give up). Is that any clearer? Jun 15, 2019 at 16:37
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    I don't think this is anything particularly to do with how English works, except insofar as maybe some other languages don't distinguish disappointment from discouragement very clearly. In English there can be a clear distinction between being disappointed (something didn't work, so you might try a different approach) and being discouraged (something didn't work, so you just gave up). But in practice, Don't be disappointed / discouraged / sad / downhearted / etc. are all often just equivalent to Be cheerful / positive / optimistic. Jun 15, 2019 at 17:27
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    @A-friend: For BrE speakers (but not necessarily all AmE speakers, I'm not sure) today, hopeless almost always means awful, useless, incompetent. So whereas Don't lose / give up hope is encouraging, You're hopeless is dismissive. Note that Don't be hopeless isn't very idiomatic as it stands - same as Don't be useless!, which would be very uncommon compared to You're useless! Jun 16, 2019 at 11:47

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