The novelty of Tim Bowen’s Your English articles hasn’t worn off yet …
Some phrasal verbs formed with wear share the common meaning of to get thinner or weaker as a result of being used a lot. Wear away, wear down, wear out and wear through can all be used in this sense, as in ‘The grass has been worn away by the constant tramp of tourists’ feet’ or ‘This type of road surface will wear down ordinary tyres pretty quickly’.
Wear down also has a more idiomatic use and can mean to make someone gradually lose their energy or confidence, as in ‘They were worn down by the stress of feeding five children’ or ‘Slowly, he wore his opponent down’.
If you wear something in, you wear something new until it fits better and feels more comfortable, as in ‘It’s always so painful wearing in new shoes’.
If a pain or a feeling wears off, it gradually disappears, as in ‘The numbness in your gums will soon wear off’ and ‘I got bored with the job once the novelty had worn off’. Other nouns that are commonly used with wear off include drug, effect, excitement and shock.
If time wears on, it passes, as in ‘My headache grew worse as the evening wore on’.
To wear out means to make someone feel very tired, as in ‘She was worn out from looking after her elderly mother’ or ‘You need to slow down or you’ll wear yourself out’. It can also mean to use something a lot so that it no longer works or can no longer be used, as in ‘He’s played that old Beatles record so many times he’s worn it out’.
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