wear x use

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beachboy

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Is there a rule-of-thumb as to when to use the verbs "wear" and "use"? Are there any nouns that be used with both, with no difference in meaning? If so, is there a reason? As for clothes, I can understand the use of "wear". But sometimes, like "preservatives", "contacts", "perfume", it's difficult for me to know to understand...
 

stuartnz

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I am not an English teacher, but in standard NZ English, a basic guideline would be to say that "wear" would be the verb to choose when discussing anything that comes into contact with a person's body. So we "wear" perfumes, contact lenses, shoes, hats, jewellery, etc. Even for electronic gadgets like headphones or earbuds for MP3 players, "wear" sounds more natural and idiomatic than "use". "I can't hear you because I'm wearing my headphones" sounds better than ""I can't hear you because I'm using my headphones".

For anything not placed in contact with the body, "use" would be the first choice in NZ English.

For some of the more subtle usage differences, I'm sure others can expand on this.
 

David L.

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Use is to employ something as a means of accomplishing a purpose or achieving a result – she used eye-liner to make her small eyes more prominent - she uses too much make-up. (she uses make-up to enhance her looks but goes too far).

wear - have on one's body or a part of one's body as clothing, decoration, protection, or for some other purpose : he was wearing a dark suit | both ladies wore a bunch of violets.
- have (one's hair or beard) at a specified length or arranged in a specified style : the students wore their hair long.
 

beachboy

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So, I can say:
She wears a bikini.
She uses bikinis so as to tease men.

They wear long hair
They use long hair to annoy their parents.

Is that right?
 

Barb_D

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When it comes to clothing or hair, "use" doesn't sound natural at all. I would use "wear" for both of those sentences.
 

stuartnz

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I agree with Barb_D. In both the examples you give, I'd prefer "wear". "She wears bikinis to tease men". "They wear long hair to annoy their parents".
 

jctgf

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you also wear glasses and contact lenses.
what about a pace-maker? one uses or wears a pace-maker?
thanks
 

stuartnz

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you also wear glasses and contact lenses.
what about a pace-maker? one uses or wears a pace-maker?
thanks

That's an interesting question. Although I'm not a teacher, the standard NZ English usage for such surgically-implanted devices would be "have". As in, "I have a pacemaker", "I have a colostomy bag", "I have a glass eye", "I have a prosthetic limb". I've never heard or read "wear" used in connection with such devices.
 

beachboy

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Last question, I promise: I use/wear glasses only to see from a distance... Which one?
 

stuartnz

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Last question, I promise: I use/wear glasses only to see from a distance... Which one?


Either. :)

Seriously, although I'm not a professional English teacher, I hear both versions often - "I wear glasses only for reading" or "I use glasses only for reading".
 

BobK

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That's an interesting question. Although I'm not a teacher, the standard NZ English usage for such surgically-implanted devices would be "have". As in, "I have a pacemaker", "I have a colostomy bag", "I have a glass eye", "I have a prosthetic limb". I've never heard or read "wear" used in connection with such devices.

Same in British English - 'have' is the most likely verb, although to be more specific you may need to say 'have fitted'; 'He's going in to hospital to have a pacemaker fitted.'

Last question, I promise: I use/wear glasses only to see from a distance... Which one?

BTW, in the case of seeing from a distance people in my experience tend to use pseudo-medical jargon: 'I need glasses only for distance-vision'.

b
 
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