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  1. thedaffodils's Avatar
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    #1

    Question sustain vs suffer

    What is the difference between sustain and suffer? Thank you!

    sustain (SUFFER)
    verb [T] FORMAL
    to suffer or experience, especially damage or loss:

    She sustained multiple injuries in the accident.
    Most buildings sustained only minimal damage in the earthquake.
    The company has sustained heavy losses this year
    Cambridge Dictionaries Online - Cambridge University Press

  2. Raymott's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: sustain vs suffer

    Quote Originally Posted by thedaffodils View Post
    What is the difference between sustain and suffer? Thank you!
    Cambridge Dictionaries Online - Cambridge University Press
    In this case, the words are being used with similar meanings. It's hardly worth spending time on differentiating them, but buildings don't suffer, so sustained is used there. But if person is injured, they "suffer" or "sustain" an injury (No difference).
    In their more usual usages, there is a distinct difference in meaning, which you know about since you've read heading 1. in the dictionary under each term.

  3. thedaffodils's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: sustain vs suffer

    Hi Raymott,

    Thank you for your help. I understand now.

  4. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: sustain vs suffer

    Actually, they are slightly different. To suffer simply means to receive, as a victim, to undergo a pain or affliction.

    To sustain means to support, to tolerate, to withstand..... meaning you've received the injuries, but the point is being made that they have been survived.

    Example: a victim that dies in a car accident can be said to have suffered fatal injuries, but not to have sustained them... because he didn't withstand them.

  5. Raymott's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: sustain vs suffer

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    Actually, they are slightly different. To suffer simply means to receive, as a victim, to undergo a pain or affliction.

    To sustain means to support, to tolerate, to withstand..... meaning you've received the injuries, but the point is being made that they have been survived.

    Example: a victim that dies in a car accident can be said to have suffered fatal injuries, but not to have sustained them... because he didn't withstand them.
    Yes, I'd grant that minor exception to the rule.
    'Sustain' also means to 'experience, undergo'.
    If the fatally injured person dies immediately, can it be said that he suffered an injury?

  6. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: sustain vs suffer

    Good point, Dr Ray.... I would say even in the case of immediate death that he suffered an injury. To suffer certainly does mean "feel the pain" in ordinary spoken English, but we know that in written English, such as in academic English, it has the additional accepted meaning of simply receiving in the sense of passive victimization, whether or not "suffering" as in discomfort is present.

  7. Raymott's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: sustain vs suffer

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    Good point, Dr Ray.... I would say even in the case of immediate death that he suffered an injury. To suffer certainly does mean "feel the pain" in ordinary spoken English, but we know that in written English, such as in academic English, it has the additional accepted meaning of simply receiving in the sense of passive victimization, whether or not "suffering" as in discomfort is present.
    My point is that if you extend that leniency to "suffer", why not to "sustain", which also has dictionary definitions of "experience, undergo" without any reference to the primary denotation.

  8. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: sustain vs suffer

    Well the Latin and French meanings of "sustain" are too far from "suffer." To sustain, etymologically, is from soustenir, (modern French soutenir), meaning to hold up from underneath, to support by a force from below (sous, below, tenir, hold; cf. German unterhalten, hold up, strengthen, protect). Thus the modern English meaning approaching "to undergo" was a metaphor at some point, because to sustain meant support as in "tolerate and make do." (Cf. modern French insupportable = intolerable, supportable = bearable, a similar root having the same Latin meaning). Souffrir has no such metaphoric distance from its original etymology.

    We also have, in music, the word "sostenuto," from the same Latin root, which means sustained as in prolonged, held aloft, which shows the other side of the coin I have been trying to elucidate. So sustain means to be subjected to and.... still keep going, because it originally just meant keep going no matter what, whereas suffer simply means receive in a more literal sense.
    Last edited by konungursvia; 14-Jun-2009 at 04:57.

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