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I read "have a thing about" is actually having strong feelings about something either negative or positive.

My question is whether "have a thing about" is used for negative feelings as well?

And is "have a thing for" used only for positive or romantic feelings?

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I've checked several online dictionaries, but can't find one that makes the specific distinction shown here using two screenshots of the (source unattributed) initial summary returned by googling...


define "have a thing for"

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define "have a thing about"

enter image description here


I'm sure there will be some native speakers who don't recognise this distinction, but it's one I've always made. And I'd say the fact that Google gives it top billing supports my position.

And this may be purely my own opinion, but I think that we're far more likely to say someone has a thing about something (rather than for) when the intended sense is that they derive some kind of deviant sexual pleasure from it. That sense is partly positive, partly negative (cf: "forbidden pleasures"; nice to experience, nasty to talk about), which may go some way to explaining why there's not a straightforward split between the two prepositions as regards good / bad connotations.

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    So can the sentence be: "She has a thing for spiders;they freak her out" – It's about English Jun 21 '19 at 17:32
  • Not so far as I'm concerned, obviously! My answer clearly states that for is only used in positive contexts (that's what Google says, and I agree with it). But as I said, I've no doubt we could find some native speakers who disagree with me / Google about whether for can be used "negatively". And probably even more who disagree with me (not Google) over whether about can reasonably be used "positively" for anything other than the "fetish, deviant sex" sense. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 21 '19 at 17:39
  • And what about " has a thing about spiders;they freak her out" – It's about English Jun 21 '19 at 17:53
  • This is a good answer. I hadn’t noticed the for/about difference before, but I think you and Google are right. By way of example of the negative form of “about”, I found a line from Disney’s “Frozen”. There’s a discussion about why Elsa always wears gloves and Anna speculates, “Maybe she has a thing about dirt”. – tkp Jun 21 '19 at 23:38
  • @tkp: Well, given it's Disney, I think we can safely assume the idea is Elsa has a pathological aversion to dirt (a neurotic need for cleanliness). In other contexts my first thought might be that she's got a coprophilia fetish (dirt & filth are a sexual turn-on for her). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 22 '19 at 11:37

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