Difference Between Pain, Ache and Hurt

What is the difference between pain, ache and hurt? My students often find these two English words very confusing. englishclass101

So here we’re talking about hurt, pain, ache, sore, soreness, injury and the difference between them. 

Speak Better English with Harry - episode 254

how to use Ache, Pain, Soreness

Difference between ache, pain and hurt

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Hi, there this is Harry and welcome back to my English learning Speak Better English where I try to help you to get a better understanding of the English language so that you can improve your English skills and start speaking like a native.

We help you by looking at English expressions, idioms, phrasal verbs. Help you improve grammar, English pronunciation and everything to do with that. And of course, we also look from time to time at some confusing words in English and that’s the topic of today’s episode.

We’re going to take a look at words that are connected to injury or places that hurt our body. So the words that get often confused are ache, pain, injury, hurt. Difference between pain, ache and hurt. As always if you have any questions or you’ve got any comments of course you can come back to me at englishlessonviaskype.com

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Let’s get started.

So let’s say we’re going to look at things that can be painful and can cause us some hurt. It’s important at the beginning to understand these words and what type of words they are. Are they nouns? Are they adjectives? Verbs? Now, some of them can be used as all three. For example, an ache.

So we can have an ache which is a noun.

Something can be aching which can be an adjective.

And something aches (to ache) which we would use as a verb.

Other nouns are a pain.

I have pain. I am in pain.

So usually a soreness.

We could also use soreness in terms of the than the noun.

And we can use sore for an adjective.

Sore hand.

In terms of verbs, we can have, as I said, ache (to ache).

And also hurt (to hurt) yourself.

I’ll give you some examples as we go through this and hopefully you’ll be able to understand them better.

Difference between pain and ache


often is something internal, for example, we have a stomach ache, backache, headache, toothache, throat; it’s usually a dull pain and it’s not so serious.

When you have a toothache, you have to go to the dentist.

If you have a headache, take an aspirin.

A throat ache can be a sign of getting the flu.

So they’re all internal.

to ache

we can use it to describe a particular pain and usually a particular pain that might continue for some time; it’s not so intense

My back has been aching since yesterday, I shouldn’t have done all of that gardening yesterday.

I certainly shouldn’t have lifted that heavy sofa without somebody’s help, my back has been aching for two days.


thumping; like somebody’s playing a big drum inside

Oh, I have an aching head.

So in this sentence, we’re using it as an adjective but in other cases generally, we would use it as the noun ‘an ache’. Backache, throat ache, toothache and all of those other body parts.

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to hurt

Meaning: to accidentally cause pain or injury

I was running in the park and I hurt my leg.

I was getting out of the car and I hurt my head.

I didn’t do it intentionally.

We can also say it in another way:

my head hurts

Meaning: here it means that we’ve got an ache or a pain, perhaps, from running in the park

My head hurts because I banged it getting out of the car.

We’re using it as two parts of the verb:

a transitive verb

I hurt my leg.

and intransitive verb

My leg hurts.

We can occasionally use hurt as an adjective.

I generally don’t, I would find another word to use. But you can say

I have a hurt knee.

But it’s not something I would use in this case. I would usually say:

I have an ache in my knee.

My knee aches.

I have a sore knee.

Again ‘sore’ can be turned into a noun by just adding -ness.


I sat down on the sofa, I put a bag of ice on my knee and the soreness has gone away.

Another way of using hurt is when somebody says:

Oh, I can feel your hurt.

Meaning I can feel your pain.

For example, if there’s some argument between your daughter and her boyfriend. She’s telling you about the problem and you say,

Oh, yes, yes. I can really feel your hurt.

Difference between pain and ache

As I said, we can use


as another word we have. It’s a noun. An injury caused by something (excessive rubbing or irritation).

And we can have

  • a pain in the head
  • a pain in our knee
  • a pain in a leg

It’s very very similar to ache, but I usually use ‘pain’ when I’m talking about something external. Pain is usually stronger and more difficult to ignore. 

For example, you banged your knee on the cupboard door and you’ve got a bruise, so there’s a pain.

I have a pain in my knee.

I’ve got a pain in my hand.

It’s very similar to ‘ache’ and we’re using it as a noun.

‘Pain’ is never used as a verb.

Difference between pain and ache

Other examples:

So if we just go back to them very quickly.

An ache can be internal (toothache, backache)

Pain can be external (pain in your knee or foot)

Soreness we can use as a noun

Sore we can use as an adjective (a sore head, a sore foot)

And as verbs we use

  • hurt (my head hurts)
  • ache (my head aches)

An injury is a noun, it’s a fact of being injured. englishclass101

Well, hopefully, you understand the difference between pain, ache and hurt. And if you want to talk to me again, or you don’t understand them, you can contact me on www.englishlessonviaskype.com

Always happy to take your messages, take your comments on board and help you out where I can to get a better understanding of the English language. Talk to you again soon.

More information

For more information on English grammar rules, English collocations and English idioms, check out the links below:

English FISH idioms and phrases

English phrases to avoid answering a question

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