Wear, put on, dress, be dressed in
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Tugba from Turkey writes:

Hello. I would like to know the difference between wear, put on, dress, and dressed in.

Roger Woodham replies:

When you wear your clothes, shoes or jewellery you have them on your body:

  • She was wearing a beautiful diamond necklace with matching earrings.

You can also wear your hair in a particular way:

  • David Beckham used to wear his hair short, but now he is wearing it long.

There is another meaning to wear. If something wears, it becomes thinner or weaker because it is used frequently over a long period of time. We also have the expression to wear thin and the phrasal verb to wear out. People can also feel worn out. If something wears you out, it makes you feel extremely tired. Compare the following usages:

  • This carpet is beginning to wear. We shall soon have to replace it.

  • He is such an annoying person. My patience is wearing thin.

  • If you didn't play football every day, your shoes wouldn't wear out so quickly.

  • Don't rush around so much. You'll wear yourself out.

  • I've spent all day shopping and I feel quite worn out.

Put on

When you put clothes on you place them on your body in order to wear them. And when you have finished wearing them, you take them off. We also put on weight, the opposite of which is to lose weight. Compare the following (additional) usages of put on:

  • Take that shirt off and put on a new one. You can't go out in such an old shirt.

  • The amateur dramatic company put on a new show, but had to take it off after three days as nobody came.

  • The casserole is in the oven. Put the potatoes on now and put the rice on in five minutes.

  • I thought I was going to put some weight on on holiday, but I lost half a kilo as I swam every day.

  • Why don't you put that new CD on so that I have some music while I'm ironing?

When you dress, you put clothes on. You can also dress children, dress a wound by cleaning it and covering it and dress a salad by putting oil and vinegar on it. If you dress up, you put on different clothes to make yourself look smarter, if you dress down, you put on clothes that are less smart than usual. We often speak of getting dressed as a colloquial alternative to dress. Compare the following usages:

  • You'd better get dressed now. Henry will be here in ten minutes.

  • She came in covered in mud. So I bathed her and dressed her in new clothes.

  • I must dress now for the party. Have you dressed the salad yet?

  • I think it's better not to dress that wound. We'll just leave it so that the air can get to it.

  • It is customary now to dress down in certain offices in the city on Fridays. There is no need to wear a suit.

  • I just love dressing up and Edward's having an Edwardian party on Saturday.
Be dressed in

If you dress or are dressed in a particular way, you wear clothes, usually for a particular purpose:

  • She was dressed in a multi-layered organdie gown with a duchess satin opera coat for the open-air production of Don Giovanni. Her chaperone was wearing a white dinner jacket.

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