Chips, cracks and dents (Describing the condition of objects, Part 2)

Listen to the author reading this blog post:

close-up photograph of a mobile phone with a cracked screen
boumenjapet / iStock / Getty Images Plus

by Kate Woodford

I recently published a post on the various ways we describe the condition of objects, including words such as shabby and rickety and phrases such as beyond repair and on its last legs. Staying with this theme, today I’m looking at words that we use to describe specific types of damage to particular types of object.

Starting with two words for the sort of damage that can happen to anything, a small, damaged or dirty area on the surface of something is called a mark and a dirty mark that is difficult to remove is a stain:

I’m trying to get rid of these marks on the wall.

There were coffee stains all over her notes.

Focusing now on the sort of damage that happens to material, a garment, carpet or blanket, etc. that is worn is thin and damaged because it has been used a lot. Another way to say this is that there are signs of wear. If material is very worn and will soon have holes in it, you can describe it as threadbare. (Something that has holes in it now is described as holey.):

I’ve had this jacket so long, it’s quite worn in places.

We’ve had the sofa for over 15 years but it’s not showing any signs of wear.

This old sweater is quite threadbare at the elbows.

If I take my shoes off you’ll see my holey socks!

If there is damage at the edge of a garment or piece of material, with the threads coming loose, you can describe it as frayed:

I can’t wear this shirt to an interview – the cuffs are all frayed!

A hole in a piece of paper or material where it has been pulled apart is called a tear (pronounced UK /teər/, US /ter/) or a rip:

The old photo had a tear in it.

He wore an old denim jacket with a rip in the sleeve.

Moving on now to ceramics and glass, a plate, glass, etc. that has a chip or is chipped is missing a small piece that has broken off its edge:

All our mugs are chipped.

I noticed the plate had a little chip in it.

A hard surface that has a line where the substance is coming apart has a crack or is cracked:

There’s a crack in this cup.

The ground was dry and cracked.

A scratch in a hard object is a thin line where the surface has been removed, often by something sharp:

There was a scratch on the side of the car, just above the wheel.

 A hollow place where a surface has been pushed or hit is called a dent. Dents are mainly found in metal objects. In US English, the word ding is used for a small dent, especially in a car:

There was a dent in the door of the car.

When I got back to my car, I found that someone had put a ding in my door.

I hope you have found these ‘damage’ words useful, though very much hope you don’t have to use too many of them this week!

2 thoughts on “Chips, cracks and dents (Describing the condition of objects, Part 2)

  1. Pavel

    Thanks Kate, I love this blog, so useful! It would be great to read one more post in this thread on the condition of food 🙂

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