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I know you can't say have difficulty to do something:

But to my surprise, I saw it in an English textbook that I'm teaching:

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I believe it should be:

insomnia: difficulty getting to sleep and sleeping well

I just want to make sure the writer has made a mistake.

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2 Answers 2

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No, you cannot say 'have difficulty to do something'. 'have difficulty (in) doing something' will do instead. I've just checked the oxford dictionary again. You are right.

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The construction of "difficulty (in) ~VERBing" is more broadly used. However, there is no reason not to use "to infinitive" after the word and it has a different connotation.

For example, difficulty to get to sleep and sleep well could be rephrased to:

difficulty which is to get to sleep and sleep well.

The relative clause modifies "difficulty" and explains what the difficulty is about. The difficulty doesn't happen once, but it happens repeatedly when someone tries to get to sleep and sleep well. If you replace "difficulty" with "(sleeping) disorder", you won't find any problem using the to infinitive.

However, difficulty in getting to sleep and sleeping well could be rephrased to:

difficulty when you try to sleep and sleep well.

It means the action happens once when you try to get to sleep and sleep well. If you replace "difficulty" with "hard time", the difference from using to infinitive will be more clear.

If you explain what "insomnia" is, which one would be better? I think the answer is obvious.

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