suffer normally means to be badly affected by something, so the sense related to grades is new to me. I don't understand it precisely since it can't be found among the entries that I've run through. Besides, dictionaries are not always reliable.

So, does "my grades suffered" mean "my grades became worse" or "my grades were bad"?

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    A straight-A student might say "my grades suffered after I was placed in a dorm room with noisy students directly above me, who often partied late into the night". The student could be getting Bs now. So the grades are not necessarily "bad", just lower than usual and to a degree that the speaker considers a significant drop.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 25 at 9:53
  • Or, as certain philosophies teach, your grades did not accept the pain they were experiencing and therefore experienced suffering. (If you understand this humour, which is based on literalism, we applaud your English skills.) Commented Jun 26 at 8:06
  • As noted in some of the answers below, it is possible that "my grades suffered" has neither of the connotations you suggested.
    – David K
    Commented Jun 28 at 5:28

6 Answers 6


"My grades suffered" means that my grades became worse because of some specific cause. Like, "When my parents divorced, my grades suffered."

You wouldn't say your grades "suffered" if they were bad in general. Like if you were failing in all your classes last year and you are failing all your classes this year, your grades are bad, but they haven't "suffered".

Note that you can say that other things "suffered" in this sense. Like, "My marriage suffered when I lost my job". Or "My work suffered when they moved me to an office that was very hot and humid all the time." Or, "My health suffered when I started drinking too much vodka." Etc. In all these cases, you mean that something got worse because of some specific cause.

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    So when I say "All my life, my grades suffered from my concentration problems", at what point did they become worse?
    – no comment
    Commented Jun 25 at 16:36
  • 2
    @nocomment That's a different form of "suffered" (I believe transitive verb) which can mean to "endure", "undergo", "experience", etc. In the "my [x] suffered" it's the (intransitive?) form that means "sustained loss or damage".
    – Herohtar
    Commented Jun 25 at 18:30
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    @nocomment That phrasing implies a worsening not over time, but with respect to some expectation which may never have been reached at all. I'd say "suffered" implies that something has been negatively affected and is worse, but could be either worse than previously or worse than expected - it need not imply the negative effect was ever absent. You don't necessarily need to have ever gotten good grades to say your grades are suffering due to some cause, but it does imply you would get good grades if the cause were absent. Commented Jun 25 at 19:07
  • @Herohtar Does the question specify that form?
    – no comment
    Commented Jun 25 at 19:39
  • 1
    @NuclearHoagie Yes, that's how I meant it. I disagree with this answer, I think it's wrong about that.
    – no comment
    Commented Jun 25 at 19:47

As does so much else, the answer to this question depends on context. In a sentence like

As a small child, I had undetected hearing problems, and my grades suffered

suffered can mean not “got bad as a resul”, but “were bad as a result.”

  • I agree. This seems like an aspectual/Aktionsart question that can go either way, as English doesn't morphologically distinguish between the two. Commented Jun 25 at 17:15

My grades suffered is consistent with your understanding of its normal meaning. It means my grades became worse, with the implication that they have been adversely affected by something external. For example:

  • Last year I did well in my studies, but this year my grades have suffered because the COVID lockdown meant I couldn't attend all my classes.

It’s not very likely for people receiving their first ever grades to say their grades suffered due to some reasons. Such comments are more likely if there’re past grades to compare against. Suffered takes sense 5 definition of suffer:

  1. VERB
    If something suffers, it does not succeed because it has not been given enough attention or is in a bad situation. I'm not surprised that your studies are suffering. Without a major boost in tourism, the economy will suffer even further. Synonyms: deteriorate, decline, get worse, ...

So became worse is right.

  • +1: in this example, the synonyms all mean the same thing, though to fit into the example sentence you'd have to conjugate to past-tense.
    – tuskiomi
    Commented Jun 26 at 21:07
  • 1
    Thanks, @tuskiomi. I have refined the sentence just before the block quote. Commented Jun 27 at 5:20

My grades suffered does not exactly mean became worse or were bad, though it suggests one or the other.

It merely suggests they were lower than you perceived they could have been, had it not been due to some additional conditions - other distractions in life getting in the way, illness, partying, nerves, etc - either in general throughout the course, or specifically at the time of the exams.

It could have been they got worse, but it could mean they were poor relative to coursework/preparations/mock exams or some other expectation without any specific grade history.

They might be considered good, but you still felt or knew you underperformed.


I would be more general about the interpretation of grades having "suffered".

While people usually use this phrase to euphemize when their grades were significantly poorer than previously, it could also mean that someone's grades simply undershot the normal expectation of that person's customary capability in his/her studies. For example, an A student until recently starts scoring Bs and C+s.

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