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  1. Noego's Avatar
    Senior Member
    English Teacher
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      • Native Language:
      • French
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • Canada

    • Join Date: Mar 2007
    • Posts: 583

    "Hysterical", "in hysterics"

    Ok, I'm trying to explain to my students the difference between being hysterical and being in hysterics.

    They were in hysterics the whole time, like it was
    the funniest thing that ever happened. I'm not kidding, the hotel was lousy with perverts.
    My mother gets very hysterical. She's not too bad after she gets
    something thoroughly digested, though. Besides, I sort of needed a little vacation. My nerves were shot. They really were.
    Hysterical: in a state of uncontrolled panic, anger, or excitement.

    Would "in hysterics" have the same meaning as "hysterical"? I mean besides the fact in the first quote, the woman has no control over her anger while in the second example the couple have no control over their excitement?

    Would that be a fair explanation?

  2. Kraken's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2006
    • Posts: 333

    Re: "Hysterical", "in hysterics"

    I am not a teacher but a student. Anyway, your post aroused my interest and I started searching on Google examples of both expressions.

    By the looks of the first results I was tempted to say that "in hysterics" is more like saying "very anxious", "nervous", "scared"; or even "in laughter", whereas "hysterical" could involve sudden physical reactions, specially shouting and/or crying.
    I mean, it suggests (to me anyway) a state of quietness and stillness (well, except for the hysterical laughter that happens when someone is in hysterics).

    These are quotes from the websites I've found.

    An hysterical shriek: "OH! GOAL! IT'S A GOAL!"

    The Tolkien community is in hysterics today as we finally get the ‘official’ announcement concerning ‘The Hobbit.’

    Paris tells People she was ‘in hystericsin jail
    LOS ANGELES - Paris Hilton says she was “in the fetal position, basically in hysterics” during her first few days in jail.

    One must have the naïveté of a child -- which cannot be said of my most reverend opponent -- or to be in a state of hysterics, to pretend to remember exactly some conversation which was supposed to have taken place fourteen years ago.

    Shoppers in Hysterics Over TMX Elmo
    (Elmo) explodes into fits of hysterical laughter when he is tickled.

    Mamet's Court Is In Hysterics (theater review of Romance by JEREMY McCARTER)
    What the hell has gotten into David Mamet? The puzzlement is genuine, and the profanity is the cooing of a dove compared to the bad words Mr. Mamet unleashes in "Romance," his outrageous new comedy at the Atlantic.

    I’ve been sent into hysterical laughter everyday this week. And I have a laugh which is not to be messed with. My laugh is so loud it will find you 100 feet down the hall around the corridor and into your work station. Especially when I’m in hysterics. I try so hard to keep it quiet, but I can’t. This is even harder when I’m trying to tell a funny story to someone else, and to me the story is so funny that I can’t tell it.
    But then I went on further to find that sometimes "in hysterics" is used to refer shouting and crying too:

    (Baby) in hysterics after he saw a remote controlled car!

    The partner of drowned grandfather David Ball has been rushed to hospital in "hysterics" after he died trying to save her during a dream holiday in Australia.
    Linda, 59, made it to the shore but the Evening Post was told she has now been admitted to hospital in the Brisbane area after becoming hysterical following the tragedy.
    I'm basically bouncing this post since I can't conclude a rule from the above. I have got an idea, but I would like to know the NES point of view.
    I'm sure some teacher will tell us something pretty soon.

    • Join Date: Oct 2006
    • Posts: 19,434

    Re: "Hysterical", "in hysterics"

    With the context of the first sentence "in hysterics" means they are laughing uncontrollably.

    The second sentence's context indicates that "mother" gets extremely worked up and angry, to the point that she is almost uncontrolled.

  3. Kraken's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2006
    • Posts: 333

    Re: "Hysterical", "in hysterics"

    Hi, Anglika.
    I'd like to know whether there is a rule to use "in hysterics" or "hysterical" when the context doesn't suggest "laughter", I mean, in a hypothetical context in which they could be interchangeable.

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