Language: Old English
Origin: teran


2 verb
tear2 S2 W3 past tense tore past participle torn


a) [transitive] to damage something such as paper or cloth by pulling it hard or letting it touch something sharp [= rip]:
Be careful not to tear the paper.
His clothes were old and torn.
tear something on something
She realized she had torn her jacket on a nail.
tear something off
Tear off the slip at the bottom of this page and send it back to us.
tear something out (of something)
He tore a page out of his notebook and handed it to her.
The dog had torn a huge hole in the tent.
He picked up the envelope and tore it open.
She tore the letter to pieces and threw it in the bin.
Most of her clothes had been torn to shreds.
b) [intransitive] if paper or cloth tears, it splits and a hole appears, because it has been pulled too hard or has touched something sharp:
The paper is old and tears easily.

move quickly

[intransitive always + adverb/preposition] to run or drive somewhere very quickly, especially in a dangerous or careless way:
She tore back into the house.
We tore down to the hospital.
He tore off into town.

remove something

[transitive always + adverb/preposition] to pull something violently from a person or place
tear something from somebody/something
He tore the letter from my hand.
A bridge was torn from the bank by the floodwaters.
tear something off something
High winds nearly tore the roof off the house.

be torn

a) if you are torn, you are unable to decide what to do because you have different feelings or different things that you want
be torn between
She was torn between her love of dancing and her fear of performing in public.
He was torn two ways.
Jess was torn by anger and worry.
b) if a country or group is torn, it is divided because people in it have very different ideas and are arguing or fighting with each other:
The country was torn by civil war.
She spent two months in the war-torn city.


[transitive]MI to damage a muscle or ligament:
She had torn a muscle in her leg.

tear loose

to move violently and no longer be attached to something:
One end had torn loose.

tear somebody/something to shreds/pieces

informal to criticize someone or something very severely:
He tore her arguments to shreds.

tear somebody off a strip/tear a strip off somebody

British English informal to talk to someone very angrily because they have done something wrong

tear somebody limb from limb

literary to attack someone in a very violent way

be tearing your hair out

British English informal to feel anxious and upset because you are worried, or because you have to deal with something that is very difficult:
I've been tearing my hair out trying to get done in time.

be in a tearing hurry

British English to be doing something very quickly because you are late

tear somebody's heart (out)/tear at somebody's heart

to make someone feel extremely upset:
The thought of her out there alone tore at my heart.

that's torn it!

British English spoken old-fashioned used when something bad has happened that stops you from doing what you intended to do:
Oh, no, that's torn it! I've left my keys in the car!

tear somebody/something apart

phrasal verb

tear something ↔ apart

to cause serious arguments in a group of people [= rip apart]:
Scandal is tearing the government apart.
a row that tore the family apart
2 literary to separate people who are in a close relationship with each other:
Nothing can tear us apart!
3 to make someone feel extremely unhappy or upset:
Seeing her so upset really tore him apart.

tear something ↔ apart

to break something violently into a lot of small pieces [= rip apart]:
Her body had been torn apart by wolves.

tear at somebody/something

phrasal verb
to pull violently at someone or something:
The children were screaming and tearing at each other's hair.

tear somebody away

phrasal verb
to make yourself or someone else leave a place when you or they do not want to leave:
He was enjoying the fun and couldn't tear himself away.
tear somebody away from
We finally managed to tear him away from the TV.

tear something ↔ down

phrasal verb
to destroy a building deliberately:
A lot of the old tower blocks have been torn down to make way for new housing.

tear into somebody/something

phrasal verb
1 to attack someone by hitting them very hard:
The two boys tore into each other.
2 to criticize someone very strongly and angrily:
From time to time she would really tear into her staff.
3 to start doing something quickly, with a lot of energy:
I was amazed at the way she tore into her work.

tear something ↔ off

phrasal verb
to remove your clothes as quickly as you can:
He tore off his clothes and dived into the water.

tear something ↔ up

phrasal verb
1 to tear a piece of paper or cloth into small pieces [= rip up]:
She tore up his letter and threw it away.
2 to remove something from the ground by pulling or pushing it violently:
the remains of trees that had been torn up by the storm

tear up an agreement/a contract etc

to say that you no longer accept an agreement or contract:
threats to tear up the peace agreement
smash with a lot of force
into many pieces
into two pieces
into two pieces, with a sudden loud noise
break into a lot of small pieces
break into a lot of small pieces and be destroyed
if a bone fractures or you fracture it, it breaks slightly so that a small line appears on the surface

See also
for exercise: jog

very quickly because you are in a hurry: dash, tear, sprint

See also


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