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My intuition was that the verb to wear could be used in two ways (besides all its other senses that is.)

  1. A "stative" sense related to the state of having clothes (etc) on.
  2. A "dynamic" sense related to the action of putting clothes on, donning clothes.

I was surprised to find that all the dictionaries I've checked online support only the first, stative sense, and none supported the second, dynamic sense.

Is my intuition at fault? Are the dictionaries just being a tad prescriptive with this? What do other sources such as grammar and other fields of linguistics have to say about this, if anything?


I've found some supporting evidence for my intuition in the Wikipedia article for stative verbs:

3. They do not occur as imperatives, except when used in an inchoative manner.

  • Run!
  • *Know the answer!
  • Know thyself! (inchoative, not stative; archaic)

Examples of dynamic wear I can think up are mostly imperatives:

  • Wear a coat if you're going outside!

(But I've never had a good grasp of the inchoative, so maybe there's a gap, or maybe it depends on who is analysing?

  • The only relevant field is lexicology. Sometimes, I've queried omissions in dictionaries myself: they're not perfect. But then neither am I. Dictionaries include or omit words and senses for words after analysing substantial corpora, so they're almost always more authoritative than any individual's perceptions. However, as OED contains more words and senses than other English dictionaries, it's often seen as the final arbiter. Perhaps the sense 'don' is given there. The fact that neither of us can find it elsewhere persuades me I'm wise not to use it. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 31 '14 at 6:49
  • Well most dictionaries don't get further into verb typology than transitive vs intransitive, though they may distinguish other types via the wording of the senses. Then again I don't have access to the biggest online dictionaries like the full OED (though I do have one in storage). – hippietrail Aug 31 '14 at 8:10
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    I don't think so; you have to put on a coat in order to wear it, but that doesn't mean that they mean the same thing. You could say "put on your coat before you go outside", but you wouldn't say "wear your coat before you go outside". – Peter Shor Aug 31 '14 at 15:16
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    Perhaps the best comparison I can come up with is 'Carry a can of mace if you live in that sort of area'. There is an implication of continuous (recommended) compliance, but no direct inchoative aspect ('Start carrying a can of mace'). Leaving terminology aside, does OED give the sense 'don / put on' for 'wear'? – Edwin Ashworth Aug 31 '14 at 16:08
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    You have to put something on in order to wear it, but that doesn't mean that the words are synonymous. It's just a logical relationship. You wouldn't say that drive means get into when referring to a car, would you? – Barmar Sep 1 '14 at 7:26
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"I'm wearing the coat" means that I already have a coat on, not that I'm putting on a coat.

When wear is used in the imperative sense, typically what is meant that the person should arrive somewhere later with the clothing on already, or include the clothing as part of getting dressed fully, not immediately put on the clothing at that moment.

If for some reason someone wanted to tell someone to put something on using the word wear it would generally need a now with it - i.e. "Wear these gloves now."

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    Well, the imperative wear could need some time-frame stated; it doesn't need to be now though. "Wear gloves when you take dinner out of the oven." – Andrew Leach Sep 10 '14 at 6:36
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He will don his coat He will wear his coat She will don a coat She will wear a coat Sounds right English has a mental state that's not based on letters written It's based in thought What is the "intended " meaning -it's a mind game

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