be at pains

How to Be at Pains to Do Something

How to Be at Pains to Do Something

Have you ever heard someone say they were “at pains” to do something? This is an idiomatic expression that means they made a lot of effort or took great care to do something. For example, you might say “I was at pains to make a good impression on my first day at work” or “She was at pains to keep the house clean for the guests”.

But how do you use this expression correctly? And what are some synonyms or alternatives you can use instead? Here are some tips and examples to help you master this phrase.

When to Use “Be at Pains”

You can use “be at pains” when you want to emphasize how much effort, care, or attention you put into doing something. Usually, you use it when the task is difficult, important, or unpleasant. For example:

  • I was at pains to finish the project on time.
  • He was at pains to explain his mistake to his boss.
  • They were at pains to hide their feelings for each other.

You can also use “be at pains” when you want to show that you are trying to avoid something negative or unpleasant. For example:

  • She was at pains not to offend anyone with her speech.
  • We were at pains not to make any noise while the baby was sleeping.
  • He was at pains not to look nervous during the interview.

How to Use “Be at Pains”

When to Use

The expression “be at pains” is usually followed by an infinitive verb (to + verb) or a noun phrase. For example:

  • I was at pains to write a clear and concise report.
  • She was at pains to avoid any conflict with her colleagues.
  • They were at pains to maintain their reputation.
  • We were at pains not to waste any resources.
  • He was at pains for accuracy.
  • She was at pains for politeness.

You can also use “be at pains” in the past tense (was/were), the present tense (am/is/are), or the future tense (will be). For example:

  • I am at pains to follow the instructions carefully.
  • She is at pains to learn from her mistakes.
  • They are at pains to keep their customers happy.
  • We were at pains to respect their culture and traditions.
  • He was at pains to apologize for his behavior.
  • She was at pains to thank everyone who helped her.
  • You will be at pains to prove your innocence.
  • I will be at pains to make up for lost time.

Synonyms and Alternatives for “Be at Pains”

How to Use

If you want to vary your vocabulary or avoid repetition, you can use some synonyms or alternatives for “be at pains”. Here are some common ones:

  • To go out of one’s way: This means to do more than what is expected or required. For example: He went out of his way to help me with my homework. She went out of her way not to hurt his feelings.
  • To bend over backwards: This means to try very hard or make a great effort. For example: I bent over backwards to get everything ready for the party. They bent over backwards not to offend anyone.
  • To spare no effort: This means to do everything possible or necessary. For example: She spared no effort to make her presentation perfect. He spared no effort not to let them down.
  • To take great care: This means to be very careful or attentive. For example: I took great care to proofread my essay. She took great care not to make any mistakes.
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