Tore vs. Torn? Difference Explained (Helpful Examples)

What is the past test of “tear?” As an irregular verb, “tear” actually has two different past tense forms: “tore” and “torn.” These forms are not interchangeable. So what’s the difference between these two words? While it may seem confusing at first, the answer is actually pretty straightforward.

Tore or Torn: Which Is Correct?

Either “tore” or “torn” can be correct forms of “tear” depending on the context of the sentence. “Tore” is the simple past tense of the verb “to tear.” “Torn,” on the other hand, is the past participle of “to tear.”

Tore or Torn: Which Is Correct?
  • I eagerly tore open the package.
  • I had torn my pants playing football.
VerbTear
PastTore
Past ParticipleTorn
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When Is “Tore” Correct?

“Tore” is the simple past tense form of “tear.” When a tear happens in the past, or when someone finishes tearing something, you use “tore” to describe the action.

“Tore” is a standalone verb, meaning you don’t need to pair it with an auxiliary verb for it to make sense. It can be placed right after the noun, pronoun, or adverb. 

Example Sentences Using “Tore”

Here are some examples of how to use “tore.” All of these sentences are in the simple past tense.

  • My dog tore up my homework!
  • I tore the paper in half.
  • I tore my eyes away from the expensive dress.
  • I tore a muscle while playing basketball.
  • We tore down the old house to make room for the new apartment building.
  • I wish I never tore up that contract.
  • He tore my dress!

When a tear happens in the past, the simplest way to express it is to conjugate “tear” into “tore.”

When Is “Torn” Correct?

“Torn” is the past participle form of “tear.” Unlike the past tense form of a verb, the past particle can’t be used as a verb on its own. It needs to be paired with an auxiliary verb like “was,” “have,” or “had,” creating a compound verb.

A past participle is used to create perfect and passive forms of a verb. Here’s a quick rundown of how these tenses work:

Perfect Form

The perfect form is used to describe a past action that is connected to another time. The perfect form uses the past participle in most tenses. Past, present, future, and conditional perfect forms all conjugate “tear” as “torn.” Here’s what that looks like:

  • Past perfect: Had torn
  • Present Perfect: Has/have torn
  • Future Perfect: Will have torn
  • Conditional Perfect: Would have torn

There is another perfect form called the past perfect continuous form. Instead of the past participle form, continuous forms use the “-ing” version of the verb. So while “torn” is correct in most perfect forms, it isn’t correct if you’re describing a continuous action.

Passive Form

Whereas the active form emphasizes the doer of an action, the passive form emphasizes the thing receiving the action. Here are a couple of ways to make “torn” passive:

The passive form is also used when the subject, or the doer of the action, is unknown. In that case, you can just say “was torn” or “has been torn.”

Example sentences using “Torn”

Since “torn” can appear in several perfect forms, we’ll split the examples into sections.

Past Perfect Form

  • I had torn down the old house last summer.
  • I finally admitted to my teacher that my dog hadn’t torn up my homework.

“Had torn” has almost the same meaning as “tore.” However, when you use the past perfect form instead of the simple perfect form, you’re generally implying that the action you’re describing took place before another past action.

Present Perfect Form

  • He still hasn’t torn up the paper for the project.
  • Michael has already torn enough paper.

Present perfect form is used when all or part of the action is continuing into the present, but it still references something that occurred in the past.

Future Perfect Form

  • Will you have torn enough fabric by tomorrow?
  • She will have torn up three reels of paper by the end of class.

Future perfect form is used to describe a future state that is directly related to past or present actions. The future state is usually certain ot near-certain.

Conditional Perfect Form

  • If I didn’t have a math test I would have torn enough paper by now.
  • I wouldn’t have torn the tissue if you hadn’t told me to.

Conditional perfect form is used to discuss express a hypothetical situation that relies on past circumstances.

Passive Form

  • The paper was torn to shreds.
  • The old house had been torn down years ago.

Note how in both of the examples above, the doer of the action has been omitted.

How “Torn” can also be used as an adjective

The past participle of a verb can also be used as an adjective. Adjectives are words that describe nouns. So you can describe something or someone as being “torn.”

As an adjective “torn” has two meanings.

  1. something that has been split or cut
  2. someone who is undecided or divided

Example sentences using “Torn” as an adjective

  • He was torn between studying music and studying biology.
  • She frowned as she inspected the torn sheets.
  • The civil war had left the nation torn.

“Have Tore” Vs. “Have Torn”

“Have torn” is an example of the perfect present tense. But what about “have tore?”

“Have tore” is incorrect. “Have” as an auxiliary verb can only be used to modify the past participle of a verb. As “tore” is not a past participle, “have tore” is incorrect.

Keep in mind that like “tear,” “have” is an irregular verb. Irregular verbs are verbs that don’t use “-ed” to shift into the tense. Instead, they don’t change at all or they change form completely. “Have” has three forms:

  • Simple Present: Have or has
  • Simple Past: Had
  • Past Participle: Had

So “has tore” and “had tore” are also incorrect.

Final Thoughts

“Tore” and “torn” are both correct past tense forms of “tear.” “Tore” is the simple past tense form and is a standalone verb. “Torn” is the past participle form and needs to be paired with an auxiliary verb like “have” or “was” unless it’s being used as an adjective.

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