"wear" and "put on"

A. Katz amnfn at well.com
Thu May 12 14:01:22 UTC 2005

Sorry about getting the language wrong, for the non-native speaker
brother-in-law. I should have read the message more carefully. As Ruth
mentioned, the same error is often made by Hebrew speakers in English.

The more general point of my post, though, was that this kind of error is
not necessarily caused by failing to note the stative versus
change-of-state nature of the distinction between "to wear" and "put on". It
may be caused by a misunderstanding concerning agent versus patient focus in
the basic semantics of the verb. Does "giymek" have to take an object in the
same way that "wear" and "put on" must?

Where the agent is the focus of the sentence, then the action of dressing
is emphasized. Where the patient is the focus, then the garment will be
emphasized, rather than the urgency of putting it on.

A confounding factor in English is the use of the demonstrative pronoun.
Even with a verb like "wear" or "put on" the emphasis on the patient can
be reduced by changing from "that" to "it."

"Wear that!"  Means that garment, rather than this one.

"Wear it!" Means put it on right now or in the immediate future.

"Put THAT on!" means  choose  that rather than this.

"Put it on."  means "Come on, get dressed."


        --Aya Katz

Dr. Aya Katz, INVERTED-A, P.O. Box 267, Licking, MO 65542

On Wed, 11 May 2005, David Palfreyman wrote:

> 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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