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General Writing and Grammar Help/Feel pain, feel a pain, feel pains

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Question
Dear Ted:

Do you say, "to feel pain," "to feel A pain" or "to fell pains"?

If all three are possible, do they mean the same thing?

If not, when should I use each of them?

Would you please give me some examples?

Many, many thanks for your kind help.

Paolo

Answer
Dear Paolo:

Do you say, "to feel pain," "to feel A pain" or "to fell pains"?

If all three are possible, do they mean the same thing?

If not, when should I use each of them?

Would you please give me some examples?

*** You can FEEL PAIN and you can FEEL A PAIN.  If someone says, "I FEEL PAINS," that would be a very unusual statement, although it could be acceptable.  It is just not common.

For example, a doctor asks his patient about his problem.  The patient says, "I FEEL PAINS all over my body."  The "common" expression is the singular form, not the plural.  "I FEEL PAIN all over my body."

Now, let's move on to the first two options:

I FEEL PAIN in my ankle.  I FEEL A PAIN in my ankle.

Those two sentences say the same thing.  Either one is acceptable.

If you want to be very specific, you can point to a certain place on your ankle and say, "I feel A PAIN here."

But, saying "I feel PAIN here" means the same thing.  So these two options are interchangeable.

The problem one is the plural form.  Most people would argue that using "pains" is not correct.  I am not one of them.  I believe you can use the plural in certain situations.  For instance -- here's one more example -- you can tell your doctor, "I feel pains in my left arm and my right hand."

My advice is to stay away from using the plural form.  Also, it does not really matter if you speak of "pain" or "A pain."  They mean the same thing.

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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