torn between: meaning and explanation

The verb tear literally means to pull something apart forcefully. Metaphorically, when we say that we are torn between something and something we are saying that we cannot decide between two options or choices, or that it is very difficult to choose. You feel torn when you really want two things, but can only choose one.

If it is clear from the context what the two options are, you can simply say: I’m torn.

If you need to make it clear what the options are, then you can introduce them with between. For example: I’m torn between these two jumpers. Which do you prefer?

Remember: if you are talking about an action, then you must use the -ing form. This is because you are using a verb like a noun. For example: I’m torn between going for a run and having a bath.

Have a go at this dictation exercise to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Dictation #1

Accent: England (London)

I'm to do . I'm out and staying film.
I'm not what to do . I'm torn going out and staying and watching a film.

Discussion questions

Write your answers to these questions in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • Can you remember a time when you had a very hard decision to make, and you felt completely torn? What were your options? What did you decide? Was it the right choice?
  • Are you an indecisive person? Do you often feel torn, even when it is not an important decision?

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