In thefreedictionary, there is such a sentence:

Tom is really bad about standing up his dates.

What does this sentence mean? Does it mean:

  1. Tom feels bad about standing up his dates


  1. Tom often stands up his dates? If it's this case (Case 2), does the sentence say anything about Tom's attitude? Does he deliberately stand his dates up?
  • If someone repeatedly stands up their dates it's either because they're notoriously bad timekeepers, forgetful, absent-minded or just plain rude.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 19, 2022 at 12:40
  • Your "Tom feels bad" has a different meaning, it means he feels guilty, Tom acknowledges that standing up on dates is a bad thing to do.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 19, 2022 at 13:30

3 Answers 3


Tom has a fault, which is that he often stands up his dates. No other interpretation is possible. The sentence tells us nothing about Tom's reasons for doing so, or how he feels about it.

  • You're not wrong, but you gotta admit the sentence is unnatural, incorrect or ambiguous right?
    – BCLC
    Aug 19, 2022 at 13:15
  • @BCLC - the sentence is none of those things. Aug 19, 2022 at 13:35

idiom: to be bad about something= To not be good at doing something

He's really bad about washing the dishes. [He doesn't like doing dishes]

She's really bad about explaining this grammar. [She's not good at it.]

Sample sentence: Tom is really bad about standing up his dates.

One cannot be "good at" standing others up, unless this is meant sarcastically.

  • 1
    I would say to be bad at doing something was to not be good at it - to be bad about something is to have a fault related to that thing. Aug 19, 2022 at 15:56
  • @KateBunting I think I explained it well enough: He is bad about doing the washing up. He doesn't like doing it. It doesn't mean he is not good at it when in fact he does it.
    – Lambie
    Aug 19, 2022 at 16:03
  • @KateBunting He's bad about birthdays. Is there a fault there?
    – Lambie
    Aug 21, 2022 at 17:31

Note: I'll shortcut his/her/him to just the gender-neutral pronoun 'h', similar to how he/she is shortcut to the spivak pronoun 'e'.

Good question. The sentence sounds wrong. I think it's supposed to be 'Tom is really bad in that sometimes Tom often stands up h dates.'

Unfortunately the sentence as it stands may be misinterpreted in 2 possible ways:

  1. Tom is such a punctual promise-keeper that Tom almost never stands up h dates no matter how much Tom tries...like Tom tries to be evil but Tom fails in being evil in weird some kids' comedy series setting.

  2. Tom is a people-pleaser in not cancelling the dates even when there's a huge emergency like Tom doesn't want to disappoint h dates, so even if Tom's relative is suddenly hospitalised, Tom will go to the date anyway for fear of disappointment from the date partner otherwise.

  • 1
    Neither works. Someone is [really/very/quite] bad about something is perfectly normal in conversational English. Standing up dates, being late for work, not tidying up, etc. Lots of deficiencies of behaviour can be discussed this way. Aug 19, 2022 at 11:38
  • @MichaelHarvey 'Neither works' --> Yeah of course. What do you mean? I'm saying that that's how the sentence may be misinterpreted. I'll edit to clarify.
    – BCLC
    Aug 19, 2022 at 12:28
  • What does “I'll shortcut "his to h" mean? And "stands up h dates"? Is this slang?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 19, 2022 at 12:35
  • @Mari-LouA It's based on michael spivak pronoun. spivak shortcuts he/she to e. I shortcut his/her/him to h. I want to use always gender-neutral pronouns, so no one will ever accuse me of getting pronouns wrong because gender-neutral pronouns are really piecewise functions e = he/she, depending on whatever you want. Therefore I am never sexist, and I am never wrong.
    – BCLC
    Aug 19, 2022 at 13:14
  • 1
    Then shouldn't it be shorten "his" to "h"? I think on a site dedicated to English learners, no one is even going to consider accusing someone of misusing pronouns for what is basically a hypothetical person. Gender neutral pronouns, and preferred pronouns have their place when a person does not wish to reveal their gender or is gender fluid. This is not the case here.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 19, 2022 at 13:22

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