I was talking about military service with my friend and I wanted to say :

My cousin just finished his military service and it was hard for him.

Then, my friend interrupted me and told me that I should say "it was difficult on him"

So, I'm really confused now and I don't know what preposition to use and why ????

2 Answers 2


The expressions are "difficult for him" and "hard on him". Your friend has mistakenly mixed the two expressions together to create "difficult on him".

If we say "difficult for him" it means that he found a task challenging, that it required more than the usual effort.

If we say that an experience was "hard on him" it means that he experienced some kind of emotional pain or trauma.

If we say that a person was "hard on him", that means that the person criticized him too harshly.


This is a subtle thing - hard on means something had effects that were difficult for the person to deal with, or which had a negative impact on them at least. It was hard for him means that it was a difficult process, something he had trouble with.

Now those two meanings have a lot of crossover, so you can often use them interchangeably, but I assume the person you were talking to didn't like the implication that the cousin found the training hard - as in, he had trouble doing it, he wasn't very good at it, he wasn't strong or fit enough etc.

You could argue that if it was hard on him then he was still struggling for one reason or another, and he wasn't able to cope with it all easily... but it was hard on him sounds a little more like "it was a tough situation, but he got through it" whereas it was hard for him sounds more like "it was hard because he wasn't very good".

It's subtle, but people can be proud about these things - so you're not wrong, it's just that sometimes you need to be careful with how you phrase things, and this is probably one of those situations. Honestly nobody should really expect a non-native speaker to have that level of finesse, so the fact they corrected you implies (to me) that their feelings might have been hurt, or they're sensitive about it at least!

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