Here is an easy way to think of the difference between WEAR and PUT ON.
Wear is a condition, or it is something you do often. (to have something on your body as a piece of clothing, a decoration, etc.)
- “I am wearing a tie.” – This describes my situation now. (my condition)
- “I wear a tie to work.” – This describes something I do often.
Put on is an action. (to dress yourself in something)
- “It’s cold today. Put on a warm jacket if you’re going outside.”
This blog post comes from a real question that a private English student asked me.
What’s the difference between WEAR and PUT ON?
Learn the grammar here with this easy guide with lots of natural examples. Learn real examples and use these English verbs correctly in natural English conversation.
This is the lesson I had with my student. I turned this lesson into a video.
Watch the video and then read the blog post to help you understand the difference between these words.
You will also find an extra section at the bottom of this post that explains 7 verb forms of WEAR and PUT with real examples.
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.
It’s a great question.
WEAR and PUT ON seem to have a similar meanings 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 – wear something 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 seat-belt?
- 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.
Let’s apply the meanings to my student’s question.
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 wear a helmet during the lesson.” is the right answer! This how we say this in natural English 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)
Verb conjugation of WEAR and PUT with examples
Present simple wear
“I wear a suit to work.”
Present simple third-person singular wears
“Dennis wears a suit to work.”
Learn more about the third-person singular English grammar HERE
Past simple wore
“I wore my blue shirt yesterday.”
Past Participle worn
“He has worn that hat every day since he was 15.”
Present continuous wearing
“ I am wearing my lucky socks today.”
Future 1) just decided will wear
“I will wear my dark blue suit to the wedding.”
Future 2) planned activity (to be) going to wear
“I am going to wear my new suit to the wedding.”
Learn more about future tense English grammar HERE
*Put on is a phrasal verb. The verb will change form for a phrasal verb the same way as the verb changes by itself.
Look into something – looks into something – looked into something – is looking into something
Learn 50 English Phrasal verbs HERE
BUT the verb PUT doesn’t change. Present, past simple, and past participle, are all PUT!
Present simple put
“It’s al almost 7:30. I have to put on my school clothes, the bus will be here soon.”
Present simple third-person singular puts
“When Ilsa puts on her makeup it takes a long time. I need the bathroom, please hurry!”
Past simple put
“After I put on my Halloween costume I had to go pee.”
Past Participle put
“These marks were put here by someone.” (There isn’t a natural way to use PUT ON in the past participle.)
Present continuous put
“William is putting on his raincoat now. He will be ready in one minute.”
Future 1) just decided will put
“These shoes don’t match my dress. I will put on my boots instead.”
Future 2) planned activity (to be) going to put
“I am going to put on a big smile, walk into my boss’ office, and quit.” (We can use PUT ON with facial expressions.)