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at pains, be at

Also, take pains. Make a special effort or take extra trouble to do something. For example, Bob was at pains to make a good first impression and wore his best suit, or Mary took pains to make sure her speech would interest the audience. [ First half of 1500s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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