Submitted by tessajoughin  •  October 13, 2007

Nauseous or nauseated

I have always said “I feel nauseous”. My daughter found out that we are supposed to say “nauseated” because nauseous means that we are making others nauseous! I have never heard anyone say they feel nauseated so has the rule changed through common usage?

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"Nausea" began to be used to mean "afftected by nausea, feeling sick to one's stomach" shortly after WW2. Some people object to this, but it is established in general prose. There is no ambiguity because "nausea" patterns differently depending on its meaning. When "nauseous" means "sick" it follows a linking verb and a personal subject: "I feel nauseous."

When "nauseous" means "causing nausea" it is often an attributive adjective and the subject is not personal: "This is nauseous medicine."

There's more to it; Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage has 3 pages on the subject.

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Sorry, when I wrote "nausea began..." and "nausea patterns differently..." I should have written "nauseous."

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My dictionary says both are acceptable.

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This exact issue was mentioned in "Never Been Kissed" with Drew Barrymore. Her character (correctly) pointed out that "nauseated" is indeed correct. But if everyone says it wrong, is it still wrong?

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"Nauseated" indicates that one has completed arrived at the state. "Nauseous" indicates that one is on one's way.

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