1

The sentence :

A dog has no trouble knowing where to scratch itself to kill a flea.

I think below sentences are more familiar to my mind where a preposition comes after the trouble.

  1. A dog has no trouble with/in/of knowing where to scratch itself to kill a flea.

However, It seems the first sentence is a reduced relative clause. It means we can rewrite the sentence as below:

A dog has no trouble ( that it is knowing ) where to scratch itself to kill a flea.

Under this considerations, my question is why the author preferred to use or choose reduced relative clause rather to use a preposition? If these scenarios convey different meanings in a Native person (or a person expert in English )? The sentence has been driven from an academic text. Can we say using relative clauses are more preferable in academic or formal English ?

  • 1
    Your third sentence makes no sense at all to me... and it sounds wrong with a preposition. Unfortunately, I don't know why. The curse of being a native speaker. – Catija Aug 19 '15 at 21:24
  • @Catija if it isn't a reduced relative clause, I am eager to know more about the trouble knowing X – Cardinal Aug 19 '15 at 21:26
  • I think you're right thinking that 'with' is omitted. Since 'difficulty' is a synonym to 'trouble' in this case, you might want to look for "difficulty [with] [gerund]", I think. – Victor Bazarov Aug 19 '15 at 21:33
  • In a word, brevity. I prefer the author's original version. – J.R. Aug 19 '15 at 21:37
  • If I had to pick a preposition, I'd pick "in"... I still think it sounds better without any, though. – Catija Aug 19 '15 at 21:39
2

To have { trouble / difficulty / a problem } doing X and to have { trouble / difficulty / a problem } with doing X are related expressions with somewhat different senses.

  • I have { trouble / difficulty / a problem } doing X means that it is not easy for me to do X. The subject of have is identical with the subject of doing and is always omitted.

    I have trouble waterboarding prisoners = Waterboarding prisoners is difficult for me; I haven't mastered the technique.

    In this idiom the doing piece is not a relative clause of any kind; it is a participle clause acting as complement of the noun { trouble / difficulty / a problem } expressing what activity is difficult.

  • I have { trouble / difficulty / a problem } with doing X often (I'm going to qualify this in a minute) means that doing X troubles me, makes me uneasy: I have practical or moral objections to doing X. Have and doing may have different subjects, and if the subject of doing is omitted it implies that the subject is 'generic':

    I have trouble with waterboarding prisoners = For anybody to waterboard prisoners troubles me.

    In this idiom the doing piece is a gerund clause acting as object of the preposition with. The preposition phrase with doing X is, again, a complement of the preceding noun.

    Note that this idiom may use nominals of other sorts, too:

    • I have a problem with torture of any kind.

    Moreover, the senses are so similar that the line I have just drawn is not at all a strict one. We often use the second idiom, the one with the preposition phrase, in the same sense as the first one.

    I have trouble with solving quadratic equations.
    I have a problem with my eyesight.

    Which sense is intended is generally evident from the context.

    The first idiom is not, in my experience, used with the sense of the second.

  • I see my mistake of knowing "knowing" as a RRC. By the Way, you are nice, bro :) – Cardinal Aug 19 '15 at 22:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.