In vain

0

1. Dreams in vain are not good for you.

 

                   VS.

 

2. Vain dreams are not good for you.

 

 

3. Is there something in particular in your mind?

 

                  VS.

 

4. Is there something particular in your mind?

 

 

 

I think there is no difference in meaning between #1 and  #2, but I have never seen sentences written like #1. What do you think?

 

And I think #3 and #4 have the same meanings. What do native English speakers think?

 

Thank you a lot and I hope to hear from you.

edited Aug 11 '12 at 13:21 Hans Contributor

2 answers


1

Vain means having high opinion of yourself.

When 'vain' is used attributively it means useless, empty, producing no results.

'In vain' means without success or result.

 

In this case there is no difference in #1 and #2 sentence. However it is true that #1 sentences are not so commonly seen.

 

In particular is used to emphasis. Let's wait for native speakers for their opinion.

link comment answered Aug 11 '12 at 13:39 Rahul Gupta Expert
1

First, sentences #3 and #4.

 

Both sentences contain the same mistake, but once that is corrected have the same meaning. It should be "on your mind", at least in American English.

 

Sentence #3 is formally correct, and is more likely to be seen writing. Dropping the preposition, as in #4, causes the sentence to be informal -- more commonly heard in speech, but less so in formal writing.

 

Because "vain" has two different meanings -- useless and having a high opinion of oneself -- you are unlikely to see #2 in American English. Because either meaning could be applied to "vain dreams" -- that is, "useless dreams" or "dreams about how wonderful I am" -- and either sense can apply to the sentence as a whole, the reader is left confused. What does the writer mean here?

 

At least with sentence #1, the proper sense of vain is understood. However, instead of "dreams in vain", it properly should be "dreaming in vain".

 

Even with this correction, sentence #1 remains odd from a factual and logical standpoint. What is a useless dream, or a dream without result? Neuroscientists tell us that all dreams, whether we understand them or not, serve a physiological purpose. Because #1 is a false statement, we don't see it often.

 

I hope this helps.

link answered Aug 11 '12 at 14:02 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Thank you both and the point of my question is whether "something in vain" is... and "something vain" is... can have the same meaning as something in particular and something particular.

HansAug 11 '12 at 14:20

No it cannot. "Something vain" has two possible meanings while "something in vain" has only one possible meaning. One of the two meanings for "something vain" does not match up with "something in vain" so the two usages cannot be considered equivalent (see my original answer). On the other hand, "something in particular" and "something particular" have similar meanings, at least in your sentence. You will find that on this forum, everything about your post -- not just your specific question -- is subject to comment.

Jeff PribylAug 11 '12 at 20:57

Thank you!! Your explanation is so clear and helpful and can I ask one more thing? You said," either meaning could "be applied to..." and "either sense can "apply to" the sentence..." So I think "apply" can be used either way for similar meanings? Am I right? Thank you so much in advance.

HansAug 12 '12 at 01:27

Thank you!! Your explanation is so clear and helpful and can I ask one more thing? You said," either meaning could "be applied to..." and "either sense can "apply to" the sentence..." So I think "apply" can be used either way for similar meanings? Am I right? Thank you so much in advance.

HansAug 12 '12 at 01:27

Yes, they have similar meanings -- the only difference is time (tense). Applied, when used as a verb, is in the past tense while "apply" is in the present tense. I used two different tenses in that sentence -- not wrong, but not the best either. (Applied can also be used as an adjective.)

Jeff PribylAug 12 '12 at 04:49

Sorry about taking your time a lot but this question is not about 'tense' because I think 'could be applied to' and 'can apply to' in your answer are all in the present tense and this question is whether there is a meaning difference between 'passive voice' and 'active voice'. And I think there is not much difference between 'A is applied to B 'and 'A applies to B in your answer. What do you think? Thank you so much!! Have a good day.

HansAug 12 '12 at 06:37

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