Word Confusion: Warn versus Worn

Posted June 5, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions

If’n my trousers have worn a hole in my backside, I’d really appreciate it if you’d warn me about it!

While warn and worn are pronounced differently, the difference is so slight that they are categorized as heterographs.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Warn Worn
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

U.K Electrical installation wiring colour standards 2004-6

“Wiring Colors” is Francis E. Williams‘ own work and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This cautionary notice warns electricians who will work with this later.

Stone steps worn away in the center under years of footsteps

“Worn Steps” is by Tim Green from Bradford and is under the CC BY 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Part of Grammar:
Reporting Verb

Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: warns

Past tense or past participle: warned

Gerund or present participle: warning

Past participle for wear

Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: wears

Past tense: wore

Gerund or present participle: wearing

Verb, intransitive:
Give someone forceful or cautionary advice about their actions or conduct

Verb, transitive:
Inform, notify, advise someone in advance of an impending or possible danger, problem, or other unpleasant situation

  • Give someone forceful or cautionary advice about their actions or conduct
  • [Usually followed by away, off, etc.] To give notice to a person, group, etc., to go, keep at a distance, etc.
  • To give authoritative or formal notice to someone
    • Order
    • Summon

To admonish or exhort, as to action or conduct

Damaged and shabby as a result of much use

  • Very tired

Verb, intransitive:
Undergo damage, erosion, or destruction by friction or use

[Worn on] Cause weariness or fatigue to

Withstand continued use or life in a specified way

[Worn on; of a period of time] Pass, especially slowly or tediously

Verb, transitive:
Have on one’s body or a part of one’s body as clothing, decoration, protection, or for some other purpose

  • Habitually have on one’s body or be dressed in
  • Exhibit or present a particular facial expression or appearance
  • Have one’s hair or beard at a specified length or arranged in a specified style
  • [Of a ship] Fly a flag

Damage, erode, or destroy by friction or use

  • Form a hole, path, etc., by constant friction or use
  • [Usually with negative; British; informal] Tolerate
    • Accept

[Literary] Pass a period of time in some activity

Verb, intransitive:
Can you warn us of further disasters?

They warned against false optimism.

Verb, transitive:
His father had warned him of what might happen.

“He’s going to humiliate you,” John warned.

The union warned that its members were close to going on strike.

Friends warned her against the marriage.

They warned people not to keep large amounts of cash in their homes.

It was a worn, frayed denim jacket, but Maryam loved it.

Poor baby, his face looked so worn and old.

Verb, intransitive:
You can’t see it, but those mountains were worn down with each passing second for millennia.

His losses have worn on him.

That type of carpet finish seems to have worn well.

The afternoon had worn on and on and on, and he wasn’t sure he could take much more.

Verb, transitive:
He had worn a red suit for the wedding.

Both ladies had worn a bunch of violets.

Although she was a widow, she hadn’t ever worn black.

You should’ve seen it! They had worn a frozen smile on their faces the whole week!

Students in the ’60s had worn their hair long.

The flag is customarily worn at the foremasthead of multi-masted vessels.

The track has been worn down in part to bare rock.

The water was forced up through holes it had worn.

The environmental health people wouldn’t have worn it.

They had worn the day away, spinning long stories.

Adjective: unwarned, well-warned
Adverb: warningly
Noun: warner, warning
Verb, transitive: prewarn, rewarn
Adjective: self-worn, unworn
Noun: wornness
Phrasal Verb
warn someone off worn out
worn someone down
worn something down
worn off
worn something out
worn someone out
History of the Word:
Old English war(e)nian, wearnian is from a West Germanic base meaning be cautious. Old English werian is of Germanic origin, from an Indo-European root shared by the Latin vestis meaning clothing.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Tattered Old Work Boots” is courtesy of Pinterest while the “Caution Tape” is courtesy of Construction Gear.com.