From Cambridge Dictionary

She had great difficulty finding a job.

UK: People with asthma have difficulty in breathing.

It seems that British English puts an extra "in" there while difficulty + doing are acceptable both in AmE and BrE.

Is my understanding correct?

1 Answer 1


No, your understanding isn't correct. It's not really that there's a usage split between British English...

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...and American English...

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It's just that usage has changed over time (on both sides of the pond). I see no significance in the fact that the "crossover point" (when it became more common not to include the preposition) was apparently a decade or two earlier in print in the US than the UK.

I can't think of any contexts where it would actually be "incorrect" to either include or not include in between difficulty and the associated gerund / continuous verb, and I doubt many native speakers would notice if you always made the "less common" choice with that particular noun.

But with closely-related forms, such as He had a problem [in] starting his car, the unwanted preposition would be very noticeable, so I suggest learners avoid it in all such contexts.

  • 1
    These are very interesting graphs.
    – HK Lee
    Dec 23, 2021 at 6:48
  • Most other Indo-European languages (incl Romance & Germanic, which are the main contributors to English) make far more use of inflection to modify (lexical or content) words, as a way of indicating the relationships between the various words in an utterance. English uses more function words (such as prepositions) to do the same job - but when the nature of the relationship is obvious (as in the construction under consideration here), we have a tendency to discard "unnecessary" prepositions. Dec 23, 2021 at 13:56

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