Suffer vs. Suffer From – Difference Explained (+Examples)

Sometimes one extra word in a sentence makes all the difference in the meaning of what a person is trying to communicate.

This is exactly what changes when you choose between “Suffer From” and “Suffer”: the message. But what exactly is that difference? And how to use it correctly?

Suffer vs. Suffer From

The difference between “Suffer” and “Suffer From” isn’t in the meaning itself. It’s the cause of the suffering. To use “Suffer From” indicates the suffering is (or was) ongoing and had a cause. “Suffer” alone reflects the pain, with no reason needed and not necessarily continuous.

suffer vs suffer from

Sounds tricky? Let’s dig deeper, and see some examples of the use of “Suffer” and “ Suffer From”:

  • How they suffer!
  • Jack suffered a heart-attack.
  • Jack suffers from heart disease.
  • Anna suffers from bad luck.

Note that in the first set of sentences, the word “Suffer” carries all the meaning in itself or points out to an event that took place in the past, but is over now. Jack suffered a heart attack, but a heart attack isn’t an ongoing thing. It’s an event that happens once, and is over.

In the second set of sentences, the suffering is ongoing and has a cause: Jack’s suffering is caused by a heart disease (which, unlike a heart attack, is continuous), while Anna seems to have continuous bad luck.

“Suffer From” is used to make sure that we communicate what is causing the pain. It’s not only about the suffering itself, but also its origin.

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To “Suffer” is to be subject to a bad or unpleasant situation. When used by itself, without a preposition to accompany it, “Suffer” means that a pain or inconvenience has happened, but will not necessarily be ongoing. It can also mean the suffering is over.

Check out how to use “Suffer” in a sentence:

  1. Joanna suffered a stroke.
  2. He might suffer complications during surgery.
  3. The couple suffered the loss of their home.
  4. Lamar suffers another breakup.
  5. Karen’s dog passed, and she suffered greatly.

“Suffer” is frequently used in the past tense, because often it reflects a moment of suffering that is over. But it can also indicate an episode that took place once and isn’t continuous (despite its possible consequences).

Also, it frequently points to events that couldn’t be easily prevented or avoided by those who suffered it. Think about the examples above, for a second.

A stroke, complications during surgery, a loss or breakup, as awful as all they can be, they are events that happen in a moment. They’re not continuous problems, and that’s the idea here. Let’s take a look at “Suffer From” below, to compare.

Suffer From

“Suffer From” also means that the subject went through a bad or unpleasant experience. However, the preposition “from” adds the indication of what caused the suffering to take place (or continues to cause it now). It may or may not be something avoidable, but it’s frequently a continuous event.

This is how to use “Suffer From” in a sentence:

  1. John suffers from his indecision.
  2. Mary suffers from a medical disorder.
  3. I suffered from a broken ankle.
  4. The boy suffers from a learning disability.
  5. Nicole suffered from a broken heart.

As you can see by the examples, the use of  “Suffer From” indicates either what caused the suffering (in Mary’s example, a medical disorder), or that the suffering is an ongoing issue (in John’s example, his indecision).

Often, “Suffer From” points out to a long term circumstance, not an isolated situation. Think about the examples.

Indecision is a personality trait that doesn’t change easily. Medical disorders (or learning disabilities) are challenges that last for a long time. A broken heart likely takes time to heal.

None of them are events that take place at a given moment and are soon over. They cause continuous pain or inconvenience, and that’s why in those cases we use “Suffer From”.

Final Thoughts

When choosing between “Suffer” and “Suffer From” you must think about what you are describing or explaining. If you just want to comment on a bad moment that is over, “Suffer” by itself should work. If you must explain the source of the suffering, then go for “Suffer From”.

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