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Which of the following is correct please? and Why?

"The going gets tough, the tough get going" or
"The going gets tough, the tough get_s_ going"

Answers

  • The tough PLURAL = 'those people who are tough'
    The tough SINGULAR = 'that thug' — at least, that's how I understand the phrase

    The aphorism works because tough has two related meanings (plus others, of course)
    1. 'causing hardship'
    2. 'able to endure hardship'

    When the going gets tough — Meaning [1]
    The tough get going — Meaning [2]

  • Thank you DavidCrosbie very much again. You explained it very well! Where I got stuck, now looking back, was the word "tough". I thought tough got to be singular - this was somehow supported by the Oxford Dictionaries (I don't mean to put the Dictionaries on the spot). In the explanation under the word "tough" it says the following among many things:

    noun
    informal
    A rough and violent man.
    ‘a gang of toughs’

    In this explanation, it was obvious to me that the word "tough" is singular, and in the sample sentence it has given the plural form of tough.

    So my understanding of the English grammar is singular noun must follow by a verb with a "s", if the noun is in plural form we don't need to put a "s" at the end of the verb. However, what confused me was whereever I searched on the internet the sentence without "s" could only be found (i.e. the sentence in my original question).

    Your explanation now has cleared my confusion. Thanks again.

  • I have only heard the following version of this saying:

    When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

    There's probably a name for this rhetorical pattern. David?

  • Chiasmus perhaps?

  • Yes. Thanks, David. I'll stop looking for the book of classical rhetoric that used to be on my bookshelf before the big cleanup.

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