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  1. She had a very sad expression on her face.

  2. She was wearing a very sad expression.

Could you please tell me if the expressions above are natural to use in conversational English (if yes, are they very formal?) or only in writing?

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    Why do you think they are/aren't good in conversational English?
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 21:02
  • Both are fine. The one with wearing is more for written English.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 19, 2021 at 15:48

1 Answer 1

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Let's look at the definition of the word "wear"in this meaning:

If you wear a particular expression, that expression is on your face and shows the emotions that you are feeling. (Collins dictionary)

and as for it being spoken or written, I did a quick search in the corpus of contemporary English and most of the result indicate that the expression occurred more often in written English (magazines, fiction, etc) than in spoken English. therefore I'd say it's mostly used in writing.

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    One should be careful when comparing frequency of use between written and spoken sources. In particular in this case I suspect most of the difference is just because literary works contain a lot more descriptive statements in general (because they need to describe everything that happens as part of a story), while people having spoken conversations have less reason to need to describe things like this. Uncommon also isn't the same thing as unidiomatic in general. I personally would consider both of these perfectly idiomatic in spoken conversation, though maybe #1 a bit more than #2..
    – Foogod
    Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 2:16
  • The difference is partly that "wearing an expression" is a bit more literary or figurative (you don't really wear an expression in a literal sense but as a metaphor it's obvious), and therefore likely to be less common; "had an expression" is more straightforward.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 15:47
  • There is no doubt at all that "wear an expression" is more written than spoken. Sometimes, the speakers just know more than online sources which are basically unsearchable for this kind of thing.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 19, 2021 at 17:04

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