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A 'Struggle' to Understand

Ask a Teacher
Ask a Teacher
A 'Struggle' to Understand
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In today's Ask a Teacher, Learning English follower Shahram is “struggling” with a certain word. He wrote to us:


Please explain the word "struggle." I get confused about it.


Thanks for writing, Shahram! We hope you will be completely at peace with "struggle" by the end of this program!

Struggle can be a verb or a noun. A simple definition of the verb “struggle” is to work very hard to try to gain something. You might use all your energy struggling for control of a ball in a sport, for example. Or you might spend a lot of time and brain power searching for a solution to a problem.

Here are some example sentences:

“My son is struggling to pass math this term. He works for hours every night to understand fractions.”


“The baby bird had to struggle to spread its wings and fly.”

Struggle is often used in terms of moral, social and political goals. A recent VOA Learning English headline read: “Women with Albinism Struggle for Acceptance.”

The story told about a movement to end discrimination against people with a medical condition that leaves their skin very light in color.

Next, we turn to the meaning of the word struggle when it is used as a noun. Merriam Webster’s online dictionary defines the noun struggle as “an act of strongly motivated striving.”

When struggle is a noun, “the” or “a” often comes before it. For example, we can return to our earlier sentence about the math student.

“It is a struggle for my son to learn fractions.”

Struggle as a noun is often used when people are talking about social movements. You might have heard the phrase “the struggle for civil rights in America,” or “the struggle to end apartheid” or “a struggle for freedom.”

A commonly used term in political news reports, is “power struggle.” This often refers to different political parties or individuals fighting to control a government or a policy issue.

Hope that helps, Shahram! And, to all our English Learners, please keep your questions coming to Ask A Teacher.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Now try this practice:

Try to rewrite this sentence using the verb form of struggle:

The struggle to learn native accents is a struggle for all foreign language learners.

Can you rewrite this next sentence using struggle as a noun?

Every morning Daisy struggles to wake up and go to school.

(Write your answers in the Comments section)

Caty Weaver wrote this story for Learning English. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor.


Words in This Story

confused - adj. unable to understand​

fraction - n. mathematics : a number (such as ¹/₂ or ³/₄) which indicates that one number is being divided by another​

motivate - v. to give (someone) a reason for doing something​

strive - n. to try very hard to do or achieve something

apartheid- n. a former social system in South Africa in which black people and people from other racial groups did not have the same political and economic rights as white people and were forced to live separately from white people​

refer - v. to have a direct connection or relationship to​