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Do you think they are interchangeable and we can collate with them certain plants?

Which one is used commonly in daily life ?

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  • To me, with regards to plants, to prune has a feeling of purposely and carefully cutting off the branches to make the plant grow better. To shear doesn't directly apply to plants, it applies to cutting wool from sheep or perhaps hair from my own head. It also has the feel of two surfaces gliding by each other, like how scissors work. to cut back is close to prune, but has the feel of not being nearly as careful about how you accomplish the cutting. I would prune a plant with small scissors, but would cut back the large bush with a chainsaw or machette. Jun 9 '15 at 23:14
  • Please say if the above comment is good enough for an answer. I am still trying to get a feel for what is a comment and what is an answer on this board. Jun 9 '15 at 23:16
  • @MichaelDorgan I think this is exactly the sort of thing that should be an answer. I do have minor disagreements: prune is often used of cutting to achieve a particular immediate form, while I think of cutting back as directed specifically toward shaping future growth. But there's a lot of overlap. Jun 9 '15 at 23:25
  • @Michael - Sometimes there's as much overlap between a comment and an answer as there is between pruning and cutting back a plant :^) Some users will post a comment when they sense there's more to say on the matter, but they don't really want to invest the time to do so. It's not so much a matter of the length of the contribution, but it's more about if you feel what you are saying is complete, or just the tip of the iceberg.
    – J.R.
    Jun 9 '15 at 23:40
  • I will go ahead and move my comment to answer then. Thank you for the feedback! Jun 9 '15 at 23:43
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To me, with regards to plants, to prune has a feeling of purposely and carefully cutting off the branches to make the plant grow better. To shear doesn't directly apply to plants, it applies to cutting wool from sheep or perhaps hair from my own head. It also has the feel of two surfaces gliding by each other, like how scissors work. To cut back is close to prune, but has the feel of not being nearly as careful about how you accomplish the cutting. I would prune a plant with small scissors, but would cut back the large bush with a chainsaw or machette.

In every day life, I have used both prune and cut back in regards to plants, but they also apply to other words as well. For example: I have heard of both pruning and cutting back jobs as a polite, round aobut way of saying people were laid off in order for the company to continue to grow, where pruning to me sounds a little more polite.

One final tidbit here: Another, older name for scissors is shears, from where the verb originates, but that noun I would only expect from older people or perhaps people who cut hair for a living, not in every day conversation.

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  • Perhaps this is an English vs American thing? I've not heard of hedge shearing before, but that is just me :) Jun 9 '15 at 23:55
  • Shears (/hand-shears), are different from scissors. Hand-shears don't have a pivot in the middle but join at the handle, and are slightly angled such that the two blades will press together neatly (as long you don't open them too far), making them different from scissors, though they accomplish similar jobs.
    – Glen_b
    Jun 10 '15 at 4:55
  • When pruning, one selects a single branch to cut at a time. When cutting back or trimming, one generally chooses an imaginary surface and cuts all branches/growth that extends beyond that surface, usually cutting as many branches at a time as can be reached by the cutting tool. The choice of tool also plays a part in choosing the appropriate verb.
    – Jim
    Jun 10 '15 at 14:40
  • @Glen_b have you tried a Google image search for pruning shears?
    – Jim
    Jun 10 '15 at 14:43
  • I don't ever hear "shear" used as the verb for what is done with pruning shears, (you prune with them). I do hear shear with the things I gave the picture of (indeed, my grandfather was a gun shearer, and was always given the job of shearing the breeding rams - for which electric shears were not used because of the risk of a small slip rendering them unable to breed, which was apparently very easy to do - he owned many pairs of hand shears).
    – Glen_b
    Jun 10 '15 at 14:47

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