In my years of experience teaching English as a second language I have been asked lots of great English questions. Questions that I think might be helpful for other English students too.
Recently my student and I were practicing a conversation from a textbook, the conversation was about a snowboarding lesson. In the example, the snowboarding school said: “You need to wear a helmet during the lesson.”
My student asked me the difference between wear and put on.
Wear a jacket – Put on a jacket
It’s a great question
They seem to have a similar meaning but are they used the same way?
My student asked me “Could you also say you need to put on a helmet?”
What do you think? Is it okay? Let me give you the meaning of wear and put on and see if you can find the answer.
Here are the definitions from Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries.com
wear (verb) to have something on your body as a piece of clothing, a decoration, etc.
She was wearing a new coat.
Do I have to wear a tie?
Was she wearing her seatbelt?
He wore glasses.
All delegates must wear a badge.
She always wears black
put on (phrasal verb) to dress yourself in something
Hurry up and put your coat on! We’re going to miss the train!
You must wear a helmet –
= You must have a helmet on
You must put on a helmet –
= You must dress yourself in a helmet
Here is the example from the textbook again
“You need to wear a helmet during the lesson.” What’s the important word here?
during (preposition) all through a period of time
What’s the period of time in this sentence? It’s the lesson! If the lesson is 30 minutes it means for the whole 30 minutes. If the lesson is an hour it means for the whole hour.
You can have a helmet on for an hour but you wouldn’t dress yourself in a helmet for an hour.
So “You need to put on a helmet during the lesson.” is not a good fit. We wouldn’t say this in natural conversation.
Here are some natural examples using the phrasal verb put on.
“You need to put on a helmet before the lesson.”
“I’ll give you a ride on my motorcycle. Put on a helmet and let’s go!” (Do it now)