We’ve no harsh criticism for Tim Bowen here, as he shows once again why he’s the master of Your English.

When used to refer to conditions or places, harsh generally means that they are unpleasant to be in, e.g., a harsh environment or a harsh terrain. Living conditions can be harsh, as in ‘Several thousand people have taken part in demonstrations against their harsh living conditions in the aftermath of the civil war’. Weather conditions and climates can also be harsh, as in ‘In the mountainous interior of the island, the climate is harsher and the soil poorer’. 

Various types of light, such as glare, lighting, spotlight and sunlight can also be harsh, as in ‘She shielded her eyes from the harsh glare of the sunlight reflected from the snowy hillside’.

Harsh can also mean ‘strict and unkind’ and in this sense can collocate with various words associated with punishment or discipline, such as penalty, regime, reprisal, sanction and sentence, as in ‘The rebels have carried out harsh reprisals in the north of the country’.

Criticism and treatment can be harsh, as in ‘He has come in for some harsh criticism for his handling of the strike’, and comments and words can also be harsh, as in ‘The coach reserved his harshest words for the referee’.

When used to refer to facts, harsh means ‘unpleasant but true’. In this sense, it can collocate with fact, reality and truth, as in ‘The harsh reality is that we all have to tighten our belts in times of economic austerity’, and also with lesson and reminder, as in ‘The rapid spread of the virus is a harsh reminder of the weakness of the international community in the face of such epidemics’.