The words ache, pain, sore, and hurt all describe an unpleasant feeling in our bodies. They can be easy to confuse. Learn how to use these words FAST with lots of real examples from a Native English Teacher.
The Difference Between ACHE and PAIN
Ache is a constant feeling of discomfort. It is commonly part of a compound word like headache or toothache. Is not often severe.
Pain is a feeling of discomfort resulting from an illness or an injury. It can be severe but not constant. It may be limited to when you move in a certain way.
You’ll find lots more helpful information and this blog post including;
Definitions of all word forms including nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Example sentences and collocations that will teach you how to use these words naturally in conversation.
Ache and Pain – Noun Definitions
An ache (noun) is a constant feeling of pain and it can last for some time. It is not very severe.
- “I have an ache in my lower back.”
- “A regular massage is great for taking away my body aches.”
Ache can also be used to show a sad emotional condition.
- “After the break-up, Kyle felt an ache in his heart.”
(Kyle was sad to be alone.)
- “Our hearts ache for the people whose lives have been destroyed by war.”
Ache is often used in compound words like backache or toothache.
- “I have a headache.”
- “I went to the dentist because I had a toothache.”
- “I ate too much at the buffet, and now I have a stomach ache.” (Stomach ache is written as two words.)
Pain (noun) is the feeling that you have in your body when you have been hurt or when you are ill.
- “I feel a sharp pain in my knees when I bend down.”
- “Tanya took some medicine to relieve the pain.”
It can also come suddenly.
- “The skier hit the tree hard. He was clearly in a lot of pain.”
Their meanings are slightly different but the plural forms aches and pains are often used together.
- Standing up and taking a short walk down the aisle can relieve some aches and pains caused by long flights.
- “Muscle aches and pains can be helped by taking a warm bath.”
Ache – noun (LINK)
Pain – noun (LINK)
Here are some synonyms of the noun ACHE.
*The noun ACHE is often used with the verbs HAVE and FEEL. I will use a similar sentence pattern for the synonym examples.
pang – a sudden strong feeling of physical or emotional pain
- Ralph felt a pang of regret for his actions.
twinge – a sudden short feeling of pain
- After training William felt a twinge of pain in his knee.
throb – a feeling of pain that you experience as a series of strong beats
- Courtney’s shoulder injury soon became a constant dull throb in her neck.
cramp – a sudden pain that you get when the muscles in a particular part of your body contract, usually caused by cold or too much exercise
- Tanner got a cramp in his left thigh and had to stop running.
irritation – the fact of your skin or a part of your body being painful
- Mary developed a skin irritation after wearing a wool sweater.
discomfort – a feeling of slight pain or of being physically uncomfortable
- The medicine may cause some stomach discomfort.
soreness – pain, and redness in a part of the body, especially because of infection or because a muscle has been used too much
- Jacob bought some cream from the drugstore to reduce the soreness and swelling in his foot.
tenderness – the fact of a part of the body being painful when you touch it
- Martin complained of tenderness in his shoulder after the accident.
The nouns SORENESS and TENDERNESS are made by adding the suffix -NESS to the base adjectives sore and tender. You can do a deep dive into the suffix -NESS at my blog post – https://worldenglishblog.com/learn-the-suffix-ness/ (Video + Free PDF)
All synonym definitions are from Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries. This is my favorite online dictionary to use with my own private students.
I make typos sometimes when I write my blog content. I often use voice typing which can also cause simple Grammar errors in my blog post document.
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Ache and Pain Collocations
Some ache collocations (words that are often used with ache)
dull (not very severe, but continuous)
feel (be aware of something)
“After the accident, he felt a dull ache in his right hip.”
have (to possess or hold something)
“Peter wanted to play soccer but he had a backache.
in (at a point within an area or a space)
“After the accident, he felt a dull ache in his right hip.”
How to use the English prepositions IN, AT, ON
Some pain collocations
chronic ([of a disease] lasting for a long time; difficult to cure)
“Chris suffered from chronic knee pain.”
agonizing (causing great pain, anxiety, or difficulty)
“The pain was agonizing.” [it was difficult to endure]
severe (very bad)
“Neil was in severe pain after the fall.”
___ of pain
stab – noun (a sudden sharp pain or unpleasant feeling)
“Earl felt a stab of pain in his leg. He looked down and saw that he was bleeding.”
verbs + pain
“Neil was in severe pain after the fall.”
be racked with (to make somebody suffer great physical or mental pain)
“Three days after surgery Wayne was still racked with pain.”
“Men never have to experience the pain of childbirth.”
“Lucy looks like she is in pain.”
pain + noun
“After a serious surgery, pain control is very important.”
management (the activity of controlling something)
relief (the act of removing or reducing pain, worry, etc.)
“The staff at the rehab center helped me with pain management. I used ice and took some pain relief medicine.”
How to use Sore
To use the noun form and the adjective form of sore correctly we need to look at the grammar.
A noun will follow an article (A, AN, THE) or a possessive noun or pronoun (Steve’s, hers, my, etc.)
- I have an ugly sore on the back of my leg. I think it’s a heat rash but I’m not sure.
- The sore on my arm is getting bigger.
- I hope my cold sore goes away before we have our company photos.
Adjectives will always follow a form of the verb TO BE.
- My back is sore today from carrying heavy boxes last night.
- You should lift with your legs if you don’t want your back to be sore.
Get is also possible.
- You should lift with your legs if you don’t want your back to get sore.
Ache and Pain – Verb forms
①to feel a continuous pain that is not severe
② to have a strong desire for somebody/something or to do something
Ache – verb tenses with example sentences:
ACHE (simple present) “It makes my heart ache to see animals suffer.”
(Sad emotional feeling)
ACHES (present simple third-person singular) “Peter won’t play soccer with us today. He says his back aches.”
ACHED (past simple) “Louis ached to see Paris again.”
*The past tense is most often used with the emotional meaning of ache.
ACHING (continuous) “I’m aching all over.”
ACHE is a regular verb. This means the past tense and the past participle both en with _ed.
ACHED (past participle) “My heart has ached for you since the first time I saw you.”
*The past participle is most often used with the emotional meaning of ache.
The past and past participle tense of ache (meaning ①) are often used with the continuous tense.
“After I ran the marathon last summer my knees were aching for 5 days.” *Past continuous
“My shoulder has been aching for 2 weeks. I should see a doctor.” *Perfect continuous tense
Pain verb – to cause somebody pain or make them unhappy
*This is the only way we use the verb form of pain in conversation. To show that something makes us sad.
The subject will commonly be “it” and it is only used with the present simple third-person singular tense, the past tense, and the past participle.
I don’t really hear or use the verb PAIN in the simple present tense. We also don’t use it in the continuous tense.
PAINS (present simple third-person singular) “It pains me to see you upset.”
PAINED (past simple) “It pained me to watch her cry.”
PAIN is a regular verb. This means the past tense and the past participle both en with _ed.
PAINED (past participle) “The fact that my older brother didn’t have the same advantages as my sister and I has always pained me.” *Perfect tense
How to use the Present Perfect Tense
Ache – verb (LINK)
Pain – verb (LINK)
Sore – Adjective and Noun Definitions
If a part of your body is sore (adjective), it is painful, and often red, especially because of infection or because a muscle has been used too much
- “The coach made us practice for 3 hours this morning. My whole body is sore now.”
- “Ian’s chest was sore after a hard workout at the gym.”
- “The pitcher’s shoulder was sore after pitching for 9 innings.”
The noun form of sore means a painful, often red, place on your body where there is a wound or an infection
“The patient had sores on the heels of both feet.”
“Dennis sometimes gets cold sores if the air is dry and cold.”
Sore – adjective (LINK)
Sore – noun (LINK)
Hurt – Noun Adjective Verb
The word hurt is used in three ways.
① noun – a feeling of unhappiness because somebody has been unkind or unfair to you
“You could feel the hurt and anger in her voice.”
“I apologized to my coworkers for any hurt I had caused.”
② adjective – injured physically
“Luckily no one was badly hurt in the accident.”
“Be careful playing rugby with your friends. You don’t want to get hurt.”
③ verb– to cause physical pain to somebody/yourself; to injure somebody/yourself
The verb hurt means to feel painful
“My knee hurts when I bend down.”
HURT (simple present) “I hurt myself every time I ride my skateboard. I have to be more careful.”
HURTS (present simple third-person singular) “It hurts when I breathe.”
HURT (past simple) “I hurt my shoulder playing rugby.”
HURTING (continuous) “My back is really hurting me today.”
HURT is an irregular verb. The simple present tense, the past tense, and the past participle both don’t change.
HURT (past participle) “I didn’t think I had hurt anyone with my decision, I’m truly sorry if I did.” *Had hurt is the perfect tense grammar.
4 more meanings of the verb HURT can be found here – LINK
Hurt is often used with these adverbs.
badly – used to emphasize how serious a situation or an event is
- “Her leg was badly hurt in the accident. It will be hard to walk for a while.”
- “He wasn’t killed by the fall but he was badly hurt.”
seriously – in a serious way
- “Don’t play near construction sites. You could get seriously hurt by those machines.”
- “Luckily no one was seriously hurt in the accident.”
Hurt – noun (LINK)
Hurt – adjective (LINK)
Ache, Pain, Sore, and Hurt Conclusion
The words ache, pain, sore, and hurt all describe an unpleasant feeling in our bodies. The best way to learn this vocabulary can use it correctly is to see it and hear it used in natural English sentences. Read and remember the example sentence from the blog post and try to use the examples to talk about your own experiences. Using new grammar to talk about your own experiences will make it easy to remember. Thanks for reading and I hope you have an awesome day.
12-Page Ache, Pain, Sore, and Hurt PDF E-guide
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