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Imagine someone who has combed their hair back or to the side. How would you normally describe it [using which verb from among my list below:]

  • Her hair was long and.............back / to the side.

a) combed

b) wore

c) swept

I didn't find any reliable link or result on google (Ngram).

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If you run a Google Image search on "hair swept to the side" and "hair combed to the side", you will see the former returns mostly images of long-haired women, while the latter contains mostly pictures of short-haired men.

The literal meaning of the two is essentially the same, but this demonstrates that "combed" often has the connotation that the hair is short, close to the head, and perhaps with visible comb marks.

I wouldn't use "worn"* in the passive voice- it just sounds weird. "She wore her hair to the side" is ok, but "Her hair was worn to the side" isn't great.

Because the subject of your sentence has long hair and presumably a feminine hair style, I would prefer "Her hair was swept to the side" of the options given.

*The past participle of "wear" is "worn", not "wore".

  • So can I conclude in this way that for short hairs I must use "his/her hair was combed back / to the side" and "His/her long hair was swept back / to the side."? @user34258 – A-friend Feb 2 '17 at 22:42
  • @A-friend I think that "must" is too strong a word. The alternative is still meaningful in both cases. I would only say that those are the more common usages. – user34258 Feb 2 '17 at 23:55
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Her hair was long and.............back / to the side. -- Choose one. You could use both but for me, it's over complicated. If you have to describe it to a police officer, then: "Her long black hair was combed back and to the side.

a) combed -- sure

b) wore -- worn

c) swept -- sure

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