The sentence below is from an explanation for the word "malicious" in Oxford English Learner's Dictionary.

He took malicious pleasure in telling me what she had said.

As a foreign English learning student, I thought the verb "had" would be more appropriate instead of "took" there.

What is the difference in the nuance of the meaning?

2 Answers 2


No, took is better. See the definition take:

6) (to receive mentally)
c. to have or feel (an emotion or mental state)" ⇒ take pity, take notice"

You can think of it this way. Rather than just having the pleasure, hew took it onto himself, kind of like possessing it.

You could use had. It is not wrong, but "taking pleasure in" is a standard usage. Also it implies a personal involvement, whereas had only implies ownership.

  • Thank you for the answer. But, is it also right when going with "had" instead of "took"? I wonder I also can use "had" there. Thank you. Mar 16, 2016 at 16:15
  • You can but the meaning is not the same. Pls check my edits.
    – user3169
    Mar 16, 2016 at 16:35
  • "had" would sound strange. "Took" is the standard word to use here. Mar 16, 2016 at 16:38
  • Thank you for your wonderful explanation. But, do you mean "took" implies that the emotion was a bit intentionally taken by him whereas "had" just means allowing the emotion to occur in his mind? Mar 16, 2016 at 16:43
  • had (or to have) is of so general usage that it does not imply much of anything specific. That is where the best word choice based on what you are trying to say is important.
    – user3169
    Mar 16, 2016 at 18:33

If you put "had" it would be incorrect. With "had" XXXXX ...ing XXXX you need a verb in the first XXXX.

"He had taken malicious pleasure in telling me ...." would be fine.

  • I mean "He had malicious pleasure in telling me what she had said.". I think there is a misunderstanding from my question here. Mar 4, 2016 at 23:07
  • I think the OP is wondering if have pleasure in works to express something similar to take pleasure in, and if so what the difference in nuance might be.
    – user230
    Mar 5, 2016 at 0:45
  • @snailboat Yes, you know what I mean. :) Mar 16, 2016 at 16:38

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