Mikkel
About translating the Danish “I have tried it before” - for native English speakers. I went to an eye doctor recently and the nurse put some drops in my eyes to dilate my pupils. Before she did it she said it was going to sting a bit. My reply in Danish was literally “Yes, I have tried it before”(=I know what it feels like because it’s been done to me before). This is something about Danish that English speakers will find odd. In Danish “to try” can mean something like “this has happened to me/I have experienced this before”. So it would be natural to say in Danish things like “I have never tried breaking my leg”(=It has never happened to me that I broke my leg). So my question is, what would be a natural way to express in English that I have had drops put in my eyes before (and thus know that it stings)? Are the following natural?: 1. “Yes, it’s been done to me before.” 2. “Yes, I have experienced it before.” 3. “Yes, I’ve had it done to me before.” (I’m unsure if “had it done” means I told someone to do it to me”.) Thanks for your help!
Oct 26, 2018 9:55 AM
Answers · 8
The phrase that pops into my mind first is "Yes, I've had them before." All of the phrases you suggest would be understood easily. All would be perfectly polite. And, yes, "I've tried them before" is just odd enough that it would take a split-second to understand what you meant. To be very analytical: the reason for choosing "I've had them before" is that, in this situation, I tend to think about _the drops_ rather than _the process._ If I am thinking about the drops, it is natural to say "I've had them before." If I'm thinking about the procedure, it's natural to say "I've had this done before." Here's an example where "I've tried them before" would be natural. "My eyelids seem to itch a lot, doctor." "Should I write you a prescription for some antihistamine eye drops?" "No, I don't think so--I've tried them before and they didn't work for me." In the case of a process, I would say "I've had this done before" and not "I've had this done to me before." I'm going to exaggerate and overanalyze in order to try to explain. "I've had this done to me before" sounds a little odd because, for whatever reason, it seems to emphasize the negative aspects of the process. It suggests something unpleasant. It almost makes "done" into a transitive verb, emphasizes agent and recipient, emphasizes that person A is "doing something to" person B. It's something you'd be more likely to say about a dentist drilling a tooth than an eye doctor putting in drops.
October 26, 2018
Interesting Q. "try" in "try + -ing" has the sense of "test" e.g. I've tried putting these drops in my eye before (but I didn't like it) With breaking your leg, either it almost happened (I almost broke my leg) or it really did happen (I broke my leg). If you want to emphasise that you had this experience, then you could say e.g. "I know what it's like to break a leg (and so I can empathise with you)" or "I've experienced / had the experience of ... breaking a leg (and I can tell you that it was awful)." People would more commonly and informally say "I've broken a leg before and it was terrible."
October 26, 2018
What I would say in that situation, as a Brit, is ‘yes, I’ve had it before’, which is a kind of lazy version of your #3, but would be immediately understood in most cases.
October 26, 2018
Hi Mikkel, #3. or "Yes, I've had it done before." #2 is fine, just a bit formal. or, "Yes, I'm familiar with it"." In American English, "try" infers on one's own. Yes, I have tried it before, infers that you have put drops in your eyes before. I hope this helps, Stephen
October 26, 2018
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Mikkel
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), Danish, English, German, Swedish
Learning Language
English, Swedish