Bad Enough.

It occurred to me that the phrase “bad enough” must be a difficult one for learners of English. It’s used in two different ways, nicely illustrated by the first two hits that came up on a LH site search:

1. As if it wasn’t bad enough that the words are Grecified Russian to start with, their current names are Byelorussian or Polish that look different again.

2. The badger definition is bad enough to be a hoax.

It’s also interesting that there’s no contrasting “good enough” in the first usage (though of course there is in the second: The badger definition is good enough it could go straight into a dictionary). I made up a sample sentence and had GT render it into Russian, German, and French:

It’s bad enough to have a cold, but to get the flu as well is even worse.

Простуда – это плохо, но еще хуже – заболеть гриппом.

Es ist schlimm genug, eine Erkältung zu haben, aber auch eine Grippe zu bekommen, ist noch schlimmer.

C’est déjà assez grave d’avoir un rhume, mais attraper aussi la grippe, c’est encore pire.

Which confirms my thought that Russian does not have an equivalent construction (which makes Boris Badenov an especially ironic name). My German Sprachgefühl is not, er, good enough to tell me if GT’s version is idiomatic or if the “genug” construction works the same way; thoughts on that or any other aspects of this issue are (as always) welcome.


  1. J.W. Brewer says

    Re “Boris Badenov an especially ironic name”: surely the relevant question is whether Pottsylvanian has an equivalent construction. What would Russian have to do with it?

  2. Woops — you have me there, comrade!

    *raises hands, surrenders*

  3. Trond Engen says

    In Norwegian the former is a set phrase ille nok. The example translates as Som om det ikke var ille nok at …. The latter is just compositional meaning. Grevling-definisjonen er dårlig nok til å være en bløff, and any adjective can be substituted for dårlig, also an antonym..

  4. Give it to Hebrew. It’ll calque anything.

  5. You can say in Russian “Простуда – это уже довольно плохо, но еще хуже – заболеть гриппом.” довольно means more or less rather. And if you are not from a usage police, “достаточно плохо” will do as well.

    By the way, I am impressed with GT’s ability to translate into idiomatic Russian (and it’s firm grasp of the standard orthography), but less impressed with its inability [negative concord, don’t hit me] to translate the meaning. The Russian phrase, as translated by GT, does not mean that the sufferer has a flu on top of the cold. As a standalone phrase, I would interpret it as “flu is worse than cold”. To render the meaning correctly it should be “…но еще хуже – к тому же заболеть и гриппом”

  6. Ah, good to know — thanks.

  7. January First-of-May says

    You can say in Russian “Простуда – это уже довольно плохо, но еще хуже – заболеть гриппом.”

    To me Простуда – это уже плохо… (with appropriate emphasis on уже) would be cromulent enough, though I’m not sure that I’m not swayed by the English construction.

    OTOH, I agree that the translation as given skipped the “as well” part.

  8. cuchuflete says

    It’s bad enough to have a cold, but to get the flu as well is even worse.

    GT—Ya es bastante malo tener un resfriado, pero contraer la gripe también es aún peor.

    DeepL—Ya es bastante malo tener un resfriado, pero coger además la gripe es aún peor.

    GT and DeepL both give good translations. The latter sounds just a touch more idiomatic to me, but that will vary by Spanish speaking country.

    The machine translators do a good job with Portuguese as well, though DeepL is better nuanced.

    GT—Já é ruim o suficiente ter um resfriado, mas pegar uma gripe também é ainda pior.

    DeepL Iberian PT—Já é suficientemente mau ter uma constipação, mas apanhar também a gripe é ainda pior.

    DeepL PT BR—Já é ruim o suficiente para se constipar, mas pegar a gripe também é ainda pior

  9. The German is comprehensible, but not idiomatic .My German is native but rusty — I’d say

    Eine Erkältung [haben] ist schlimm genug, aber die Grippe dazu [zu kriegen] ist wesentlich schlimmer.

    The bracketed parts are optional. I’d probably leave off the haben but not the zu kriegen.

  10. A. Sasportas says

    “Tener un resfriado” is a literal translation from English. Read estar resfriado, estar constipado, or estar acatarrado.

  11. Tangentially, in my local social media circles we’ve all agreed that the most condemnatory thing a New Zealander can say is: “It’s not good enough.” Eg: “The government has failed to stop zombies taking over the power stations. It’s not good enough.”

  12. Dmitry Pruss says

    Уже херово or как будто без этого сладко было or будто этого не хватало, так ещё и то…

    None is exact but they span the range

  13. A. Sasportas says

    Further to my comment above: the rest of the “Spanish” sentence too is literally translated from English. Read:

    Como si fuera (or fuese) poco estar resfriado (or estar constipado or estar acatarrado or resfriarse or constiparse or acatarrarse) también contrajo (or ha contraído) la gripa (or la gripe or la influenza).

  14. What about “It’s bad enough getting a cold, let alone the flu”. Would that translate better into other languages? It goes ok into Chinese, Japanese, and Mongolian as far as I can see.

    But there are always traps in this kind of fixed expression. Recently my wife, having listened to a video on enriching your vocabulary by a (Continental) European speaker, suddenly spouted this piece of English: “Not to say ‘angry’, say ‘furious'”. Sure enough, while the European speaker said “Instead of saying ‘xxx’, say ‘yyy'” and a few variations on this, at one stage she did say “Not to say ‘xxx’, say ‘yyy'” — where she should have said “Don’t say ‘xxx’, say ‘yyy'”. My wife picked up the simplest, and incorrect, version to incorporate into her speech. I had to explain that the meaning of “not to say” is quite different from what it looks like it should.

    Linguee gives the following example with ‘not to say’: “Today, of course, we are disappointed, not to say furious, about the revelations made by the North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister, the very man who was our main contact, regarding the secret development of the country’s nuclear programme for military ends.”

    And according to Linguee, it goes straight into Spanish as follows:

    “Hoy, lógicamente, nos encontramos decepcionados, por no decir furiosos, por culpa de las declaraciones efectuadas por el Viceministro de Asuntos Exteriores de la República Popular Democrática de Corea, la misma persona que fue nuestro principal interlocutor, sobre el desarrollo clandestino del programa nuclear nacional con fines militares.”

    I’m not sure a literal translation would work for all languages, though.

    Google Translate screws it up for Chinese: 今天,当然,我们对朝鲜副外相(我们的主要联系人)所披露的有关该国军事目的核计划的秘密发展感到失望,而不是愤怒。

    Jīntiān, dāngrán, wǒmen duì Cháoxiǎn fù-wàixiāng (wǒmen de zhǔyào liánxìrén) suǒ pīlù de yǒuguān gāi-guó jūnshì mùdì hé-jìhuà de mìmì fāzhǎn gǎndào shīwàng, ér bùshì fènnù.

    Fairly literally, “Today, of course, we feel disappointment, but not anger, at the revelation by the deputy foreign minister of North Korea (our main contact person) concerning the secret development of that country’s military-objective nuclear program.”

    The Chinese should have used something like 甚至可以说 Shènzhì kěyǐ shuō ‘You could go so far as to say…”

  15. dårlig

    I remember dåligt samvete (Sv) ‘bad conscience’, so I’ve decided to look up dårlig:

    A merger of two words: 1. Old Norse dáligr, derived from dá n (“coma”), from Proto-Germanic *dawą, related to *dawjaną (“die”); and 2. Middle Low German dōrlik (“foolish”), derived from dōre (“fool”), from Proto-Germanic *dauzô, cognate with German Tor (cf. also Danish dåre).

    IPA(key): [ˈd̥ɒːli]
    dårlig (neuter dårligt, plural and definite singular attributive dårlige, comparative værre or dårligere, superlative (predicative) værst or dårligst, superlative (attributive) værste or dårligste)

    bad, unwell, poor

  16. Bathrobe’s sentence with “let alone” seems to differ from LH’s in two ways. One way is that Bathrobe’s talks of having the flu alone, rather than the combo of the flu and a cold. Another difference is that LH’s sentence explicitly says that the combo is worse. But in the “let alone” construction, the speaker lets it go without saying that the flu is worse; the point is that even a cold is bad enough to cause something else. for example “I’d phone in sick even if I had a cold, let alone the flu.”

  17. Trond Engen says

    juha: A merger of two words

    Heh, I didn’t know. I’ve always assumed it was from dåre “fool”.

    “coma” survives in the verb dåne “faint”.

  18. 1. As if it wasn’t bad enough that the words are Grecified Russian to start with, their current names are Byelorussian or Polish that look different again.

    Мало того, что…or мало мне было etc…

  19. A case of contamination involving some Turkic languages:


    Alternative forms
    (Eastern Bashkir): орҙоҡ (orðoq)

    From *urluq (“seed”), apparently altered from Proto-Turkic *urug (“seed”), or from a related form *ur(u)lɨk, where -lɨk is a suffix.

    Compare with Tatar орлык (orlıq, “seed”), Nogai урлык (urlık, “seed”), Karachay-Balkar урлукъ (urluq, “seed”), Kumyk урлукъ (urluq, “seed”), Chuvash вăрлăх (vărlăh, “seed”).

    IPA(key): [ʊ̞rˈɫʊ̞q]
    Hyphenation: ор‧лоҡ
    орлоҡ • (orloq)

    1. seed

  20. David Marjanović says

    The German is fine, except that auch is misleading because it doesn’t provide enough emphasis (I’d go with auch noch), and while bekommen is strongly preferred in writing, I don’t think anybody actually says it instead of kriegen.

    The French is probably perfect, though I’m not quite sure if la grippe aussi would be better or worse.

    For “let alone”, literary German has the very odd fixed phrase geschweige denn. (That’s the only occurrence of geschweige in the language, it’s the only occurrence of any verb-derived form ge-…-e in the language, and denn hardly makes sense here. Schweigen, if anyone in present company isn’t familiar with early Wittgenstein after that other thread, means not to speak.) More colloquially, you get various versions and shortenings of “and we don’t even need to talk about the flu”.

    “As if it wasn’t bad enough” goes almost literally: als ob es nicht schon schlimm genug wäre.

  21. Trond Engen says

    Is geschweige an old neuter perfect? “Unsaid then (that ….)”

  22. Too bad to be false..

    (not a reaction to anyone’s comment, of course!)

  23. PlasticPaddy says

    Dwds has

    verkürzt aus ich geschweige, zu (heute unüblichem) geschweigen, mhd. geswīgen, ahd. giswīgēn ‘stillschweigen’ (um 800).

    but maybe you mean by “perfect” the sort of aspect caused by prefix ge- e.g. horchen “hear / listen attentively ” vs. gehorchen “obey”.

  24. Bathrobe says

    @ rozele

    It’s true that my sentence with “let alone” differs from Hat’s in several ways, but the sense of “bad enough” is the same one that Hat is referring to. What I was wondering was whether “bad enough, let alone” can be translated into Russian. Or does Russian just say “xxx is bad, let alone yyy”.

    Both Chinese and Mongolian expressions for “let alone” seem to resemble German geschweige denn.

    For instance, from Iciba:

    “He did not have enough money to have the tyre patched up, let alone buy a new one”.

    他的钱还不够补这个轮胎,更别提买个新的了。 Tā de qián hái bùgòu bǔ zhège lúntāi, gèng bié tí mǎi gè xīn de le.

    更别提 means roughly ‘even further don’t mention….’, i.e., ‘don’t even mention….’

    更别说 gèng bié shuō ‘even further don’t say…’ is less colloquial but has a similar meaning.

    Mongolian uses the similar expression битгий хэл bitgii khel ‘don’t mention’.

  25. The German is not wrong and not completely unidiomatic, but it is the kind of thing a foreigner would say. For me, natural spoken German would be: “Eine Erkältung ist ja schon schlimm genug, aber dann noch ‘ne Grippe dazu…” .

    And I don’t see any problem with geschweige denn. It has been part of my spoken usage since I was a kid, and it seems perfectly natural to me. There is nothing literary about it.

  26. David Marjanović says

    Is geschweige an old neuter perfect?

    The past participle of schweigen is geschwiegen, with another vowel. Ending-wise this is the endingless form, i.e. adverb and predicative adjective.

    not completely unidiomatic

    You’re right, using a verb in it is unusual.

    my spoken usage since I was a kid

    Ah. That’s the kind of regional variation that is extremely easy to overlook.

  27. In Swedish, it’s “för att inte tala om” (geschweige denn/更别提). In the first example of “bad enough” it would be “illa nog”, not “dålig(t) nog”. I’m trying to come up with an example sentence with “förtiga” but my mind is blank. As for It’s not good enough, I would say “Det duger inte”.

    “let alone” is one of those English phrases that’s hard to master. Can you start a sentence with it?

  28. No, it has to follow something it contrasts with.

  29. Bathrobe, for LH 1 “мало” is perfect. It is a… hm, predicative from “little”, means “[it is] a small quanity, [it is] not enough”.

    When fronted it means something like
    “[apparently] it was not enough, that {usually something undesirable}” or with dative
    “[apparently] there was not enough to me of {usually something undesirable}”

    The implication is that gods desided that you don’t have enough problems.

    But it can be used positively too (when emotionally listing unexpected good qualities, “emotionally” matters ), just less often.
    It can’t be combined with “let alone” (не говоря уже…, not speaking already about…).

    If I want to use let alone, I will have to translate “bad enough” more literally, e.g. “bad”, “already bad” or “already quite bad”.
    “Already” carries the same property that makes bad enough different from sufficiently bad:)

  30. “It’s also interesting that there’s no contrasting “good enough” in the first usage…”

    Moreover, you could take “bad” out of (1) without a drastic change in meaning: “As if it wasn’t enough that…” The most obvious Russian parallel, as drasvi points out, would be мало того, что… так (еще и)…

    Also, it seems to me that “It’s bad enough to have a cold, but to get the flu as well is even worse” fits neither (1) nor (2).

  31. Jen in Edinburgh says

    The first ‘bad enough’ doesn’t seem to me to be an idiom of the kind that means something different from the individual words (is there a word for that?) – you’d have to be a particular kind of person to say ‘as if it wasn’t sufficiently awful’, but you could, and it would mean much the same.

    As for ‘good enough’, it’s hard to imagine a context in which you would want to complain that one lot of goodness was already suffiently undeserved without another – and if you did, you would probably just use ‘enough’.
    (‘As if it wasn’t enough that she inherited that big house after all she’d done to make her husband miserable, she’s gone and won the lottery as well’?)

  32. Lars Mathiesen says

    dårlig — idiomatically, Danish uses dårligt nok as ‘barely’ — han havde dårligt nok salt til et æg. It would not be wrong wrong as a translation of ‘bad enough,’ but alternatives are preferred, like det er slemt nok ikke at have salt til et æg. Note these are adverbial neuter forms of adjectives.

    And as in Norwegian, in definitionen er dårlig nok til at være fup you can choose any value-bearing adjective. (Common gender in this case to agree with definitionen). You can even doll it up a little to … er tilstrækkelig god til … without being non-colloquial, just more emphatic.

    (Not tilstrækkeligt — yes, it’s adverbial, but we stopped doing adverbial t’s after -lig and -isk a few hundred years ago and last century the spelling caught up. Adjectives agreeing with neuter nouns still have them, at least for -ligt).

  33. David Marjanović says

    I just used another German option for “let alone X”, “never mind X” in an e-mail today: von X ganz zu schweigen. With more emphasis it becomes ganz zu schweigen von X.

    The first ‘bad enough’ doesn’t seem to me to be an idiom of the kind that means something different from the individual words (is there a word for that?)

    Yes: it’s compositional – it doesn’t have a non-compositional meaning.

  34. January First-of-May says

    The most obvious Russian parallel, as drasvi points out, would be мало того, что… так (еще и)…

    This indeed is a fairly good translation/equivalent, and I’m surprised that I didn’t think of it immediately.

  35. @A. Sasportas:

    “Tener un resfriado” is a literal translation from English.

    That’s a rather unsustainable claim.

    The expression was good enough for Pérez Galdós to use almost 150 years ago; it seems unspeakably pompous to decry it as a bad translation now.

    La niña tuvo un resfriado; pero ya está bien, gracias a Dios. [Pérez Galdós, B. (1890–1). Ángel Guerra. Madrid: Sucesores de Hernando]

  36. Would it be used in everyday speech in your dialect, and in preference to expressions using resfriarse?

  37. @Y: in my dialect resfriarse is perfectly normal, but it’s inchoative: to catch a cold, rather than to be showing the symptoms of one. So not quite a synonym.

    I don’t think this is the kind of thing that lends itself easily to introspection, but using my last 20 years of email as a corpus it seems that for the stative meaning I use tener un resfriado and estar resfriad* at roughly equal rates. The topic gets mentioned on average three times a year, so it’s not a huge dataset, but it’s not insignificant either.

  38. I love the idea of having a personal corpus, and in this case, actually mining it for useful linguistic information.

  39. Yes, that’s quite a striking 21st-century phenomenon.

  40. Trond Engen says

    Alon L.: using my last 20 years of email as a corpus

    That’s brilliant. Now I feel much better for never cleaning up my mailbox.

  41. David Marjanović says


    Amazingly parallel to sich erkälten/verkühlen.

  42. Andrej Bjelaković says

    And FYLOSC prehladiti se.

  43. Lars Mathiesen says

    Danish inchoative forkøle sig is giving way to blive forkølet, the stative is være forkølet. A cold is en forkølelse, but that is something you get (får) or suffer from (lider af, though that is giving the thing undue importance), not something you have. (It’s not wrong wrong to say han har en slem forkølelse, but I think I’d usually detour through the perfect of the inchoative: han har fået en slem forkølelse).

  44. David Marjanović says

    That’s interesting, because I’d have located verkühlen in the south (that’s what I’m used to) and erkälten in the north.

  45. PlasticPaddy says

    Standard Dutch has “kou vatten” or “verkouden worden” for “catch a cold”. By analogy with “zich verwarmen”, in Dutch “zich verkoelen” would likely mean “to cool oneself down”, if it existed.

  46. Lars Mathiesen says

    When it comes to loans from German (any altitude), verbs in unstressed ver- get nativized as for-, but er- doesn’t really map to anything. We do have things like erkende but they are much rarer; the deck was stacked against erkälten. (Also Danish has kold (the d is fake) and already borrowed køle from kühlen, that’s one more thing).

  47. John Cowan says

    whether Pottsylvanian has an equivalent construction

    As is well known, Pottsylvania is just the Latinized name of the westernmost member of the RSFSR / Russian Federation, though no longer forested.

    let alone

    I remember a Hattic (possibly a Scandihattic) using let alone in the (incorrect) sense ‘except’ as opposed to ‘even more so’.

  48. Lars Mathiesen says

    Danish uses for ikke at tale om as a pretty close equivalent of let alone. Same idea as geschweige denn, but with bog standard syntax.

  49. John Cowan says

    The Scandihattic in question was Stefan Holm: “let alone for poetry”.

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