What’s The Difference Between Ache, Pain, And Sore? (2021)

Words like ache, pain, sore, and hurt all describe an unpleasant feeling in our bodies. They can be easy to confuse. Read this post and learn how to use these words FAST. Lots of real examples from a Native English Teacher.

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.”
Ache is often used in compound words like backache, toothache, eg.
“I have a headache.”

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.” 

*You will often hear the nouns aches and pains used together.
“Muscle aches and pains can be helped by taking a warm bath.”

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.”

The verb hurt means to feel painful
“My knee hurts when I bend down.”

Ache/PainSoreHurt

Ache/Pain

Noun Verb

Ache and Pain – nouns

Ache – a constant feeling of pain and it can last for some time. It is not very severe
Compound words with ache are very common.

“I went to the dentist because I had a toothache.”

“I ate too much at the buffet, now I have a stomach ache.” *Stomach ache is written as two words.

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.)


Pain – the feeling that you have in your body when you have been hurt or when you are ill.
The feeling of pain is stronger than ache. 

“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.
“Muscle aches and pains can be helped by taking a warm bath.”

Muscle aches and pains can be helped by taking a warm bath.

Ache – noun (LINK)
Pain – noun (LINK)

Ache and Pain Collocations

Some ache collocations (words that are often used with ache)

adjective
dull (not very severe, but continuous)
verbs
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.

preposition 
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

adjectives
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
be in
“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.”

experience
“Men never have to experience the pain of childbirth.”

preposition
in
“Lucy looks like she is in pain.”

pain + noun
control
“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.”

“The staff at the rehab center helped me with pain management.

Ache and Pain – verb forms

Ache verb
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


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Pain verb to cause somebody pain or make them unhappy

*There 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 Noun

Sore adjective

Sore means a part of your body is painful, and often red, especially because of infection or because a muscle has been used too much

“Ian’s chest was sore after a hard workout at the gym.”

“The pitcher’s shoulder was sore after pitching for 9 innings.”

Ian’s chest was sore after a hard workout at the gym.

Sore noun

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 get cold sores if the air is dry and cold.”

cold sore

Sore – adjective (LINK)
Sore – noun (LINK)

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Hurt

Noun Adjective Verb

The word hurt is used three ways.

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.”

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.”

verb– to cause physical pain to somebody/yourself; to injure somebody/yourself

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 Collocations

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.”

seriously – in a serious way
“Don’t play near construction sites. You could get seriously hurt by those machines.”

Don’t play near construction sites. You could get seriously hurt by those machines.

Hurt – noun (LINK)
Hurt – adjective (LINK)

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