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I learned that clad can mean dressed, but I'm not sure the exact usage of it.

Normally I used to say

1. An old man, dressed up in old clothing, is standing there.
2. He dressed up well/neat
3. He dressed up in old clothing.

Can I use "clad" in all these sentences instead of "dressed up" like below?

1. An old man, clad in old clothing, is standing there.
2. He clad well/neat
3. He clad in old clothing.

I don't think clad fits well in all of these sentences. May be it fits well only in the first sentence. It doesn't fit in 2nd and 3rd sentences I guess. Am I correct?

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  • You are correct. They might work with "is clad", though. Mar 12, 2014 at 2:34
  • @TylerJamesYoung You mean "He is clad well" works?
    – T2E
    Mar 12, 2014 at 2:42
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    @T2E You are correct, only the first of your three examples works. Why that's the case fabulously represents just how convoluted this language really is. I'm hoping somebody comes along and explains it soon, because I kind of know, and it's making my head spin. In order to properly address it, I'd have to look up several terms I haven't used in 30 years. Mar 12, 2014 at 2:59
  • It's not something I'd say, but it seems grammatically valid. Conversely, this is the only place on the whole internet where "he clad well" appears without some kind of "is" verb. Mar 12, 2014 at 3:06
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    @T2E "He is clad well" is grammatically correct, but sounds terrible. Mar 12, 2014 at 3:07

2 Answers 2

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Clad is a fossil, an archaic past and past participle form of the verb clothe, now generally replaced by clothed, and having the same sense.

Unlike dress, which may be used both transitively and intransitively, clothe may be used only as transitive verb: it requires a direct object, the person who is clothed.

Consequently, your first example, “an old man clad in old clothing”, is grammatical—here clad is the past participle, employed as an adjective. But your other examples are not grammatical. You must provide a direct object:

He clad himself well/neatly.
He clad himself in old clothing.

Clad as a participle is a strictly literary form. It is almost never heard in conversation, and is old-fashioned even in writing.

Clad as a finite verb is distinctly archaic; it should be used only if you are trying to sound mediaeval.

I advise you not to use either; use clothed instead, in formal contexts, or dressed in either formal or informal contexts.

Do not, however, use dress up as you do in your examples. This is used in only two senses:

To dress in more formal attire than usual: She always dresses up to go to the theatre.
With as, to disguise oneself in clothing: She dressed up as a Klingon for the costume party.


Since the matter has been raised in the comments, I may mention that clad, as both participle and finite verb, is much more widely known than it is used because it is a very popular word among historical novelists and writers of fantasy. For instance, the folk hero Robin Hood and his Merry Men are almost inevitably described as “clad in Kendal green”. (Not one reader in twenty knows what Kendal green is, but it doesn’t matter.)

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  • Woo-Hoo! How did I know it was going to be you?!? +1 BTW, Kendall is a family first name :) Mar 12, 2014 at 5:11
  • I would not accept "He clad himself neatly" to mean: He dressed neatly. in contemporary English with perhaps an exception for poetic license. It is much more used as a past particle.
    – Lambie
    Oct 1, 2019 at 23:08
  • Lincoln green, surely? Oct 31, 2021 at 8:58
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Well answered above. A couple of points on how it is more often used.

You are more likley to hear someone described as "He is well clad" than "He clad himself well" - it is neater and shorter.

More common is a technical use for e.g. the cladding of a building, or pipework, or whatever - a surface covering. But this usually leads to it being described as "cladded" rather than just "clad"

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