"wear" and "put on"

john at research.haifa.ac.il john at research.haifa.ac.il
Wed May 11 05:53:16 UTC 2005

The relevant category is called `telic' (as opposed to `atelic',
or some people might want to say that `wear' is `stative'). It means
an action which is conceptualized as inherently having an endpoint
(e.g. put on). See
Comrie's book `Aspect', for example. A similar pair which Hebrew
speakers have problems with is `learn' (telic) vs. `study' (atelic),
which are both `lamad' in Hebrew. I have heard Spanish speakers
get confused between (atelic) `look for' and (telic) `get', because they can
both be `buscar' in Spanish (saying e.g. `Look for the cat!' when the cat is in
plain sight; what they mean is `get the cat'). A similar problem is the
distinction between `go to/fall
asleep' (punctual) vs. `sleep' (atelic or perhaps stative); in many
languages these are morphologically related forms of the same verb so
that non-native speakers will say e.g. `I slept at 11 o'clock last night.'
There are many words like this.
Best wishes,

Quoting David Palfreyman <David.Palfreyman at zu.ac.ae>:

> My non-native English-speaking brother-in-law and his native
> English-speaking wife were preparing to go out, and running late.  He
> indicated a dress and said "wear that".  She said "OK" and went on doing
> her make-up.  A minute later he said in frustration "come on, wear
> that!"  It turned out that he meant "put that on".
> Now, I can see the difference in meaning between the two verbs, but how
> would you describe it in semantic terms, and are there other pairs of
> verbs with a similar distinction?
> :-D

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