To put on clothes is to "dress." This is a simple yet important verb to learn. The meaning of "dress" can change a little, depending on the situation in which it’s used.

  • Mary dressed and left the house for work. (She put on clothes.)
  • Mary got dressed and left the house for work at 7:30 a.m. (Notice that the verb "get" is often used with "dressed" for putting on clothes.)
  • Mary gets dressed up for work every day. (dress up = she wears formal, business attire.)

The verb "dress" is a regular verb. Following the "s" sound, the "ed" ending makes a "t" sound:

simple past past participle

When one person assists another in putting on clothes, you can use "dress" as a verb:

dressing her granddaughter

  • She helped her granddaughter get dressed.
  • She dressed her granddaughter.
  • I dressed my children when they were babies.
  • Have you ever dressed a child?

The verb "dress" is also similar to the verb "wear."

  • How was she dressed? (What was she wearing?)
  • Is that how you dress for work? (Is that what you wear for work?)
  • Nathan is dressed in jeans and a t-shirt today. (He’s wearing jeans and a t-shirt today.)
  • He dresses very casually. (He wears casual clothes.)

By adding the preposition "up" after "dress," you describe the occasion or the reason for dressing:

  • We got dressed up for the wedding. The men wore suits and the women wore dresses.
  • Alan rarely dresses up for work. He usually just wears casual clothes.
  • What are you all dressed up for?
  • Tina dressed up as a witch for Halloween. (dress up as = put on a costume.)

You can use "dress" or "well-dressed" as an adjective to describe formal clothing:

  • I need to buy a pair of dress shoes that will match this suit.
  • That store sells men’s and women’s dress suits. (It’s not necessary to use "dress" in front of suit, but sometimes the word appears there as an adjective.)
  • A well-dressed man came into the store to buy a gift for his niece. (well-dressed = nicely dressed.)
  • He’s always very well dressed.

The word "dressy" can be used an adjective:

  • Lucinda wears clothes that are a little too dressy for the office. (The clothes don’t fit the situation–they’re too nice.)
  • Everyone looks so dressy today! What’s the occasion?

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Published on March 18, 2012.