Torn Between: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
August 15, 2023

The idiom "torn between "conveys a sense of indecision, conflict, or dilemma one faces when choosing between two or more things. For instance, they cannot decide which is better or worse for them and may experience stress, anxiety, guilt, regret, or confusion.

In short:

  • The idiom "torn between" means to be equally compelled to choose between two different people, things, or actions.
  • It implies that the choice is not easy or obvious, and that one feels divided or conflicted about it.

What Does "Torn Between" Mean?

The idiom "torn between" is derived from the literal meaning of the verb "to tear," which is to pull or rip something apart. When someone says they are "torn between" two or more options, they are figuratively speaking that they feel they are being pulled in different directions by each option.

Where Does "Torn Between" Come From?

The origin and history of the idiom "torn between" seems to have emerged in the late 19th century in English literature and speech. In addition, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the earliest recorded use of the phrase "torn between" was in 1871 by the British novelist George Eliot in her book Middlemarch.

Historical Example

"I am torn between living here now and dying here later."

- Robert Frost, American poet (1874-1963)

10 Examples of "Torn Between" in Sentences

Here are some examples of how the idiom "torn between" can be used in different sentences:

  • I'm torn between going to college abroad or staying close to home. I feel that I have to think about it more.
  • Son of a biscuit! She was torn between her loyalty to her friend and her duty as a witness.
  • He was torn between buying a new car or saving money for a house. Quite frankly, that's one of the worst dilemmas in life when you have a limited budget.
  • They were torn between adopting a dog or a cat. So yass! They adopted both.
  • She's locked and loaded to go to college, but she's torn between studying law or medicine.
  • He's torn between his girlfriend and his ex-wife. I hope that he will be happy with his decision.
  • They're torn between staying in their current job or looking for a new one.
  • Is everything okay? You seem torn between telling her your feelings or keeping them to yourself.
  • Carla is torn between following her dreams and his father's expectations. Real talk: she should follow her heart.
  • They're torn between spending their vacation in Hawaii or Alaska.

Examples of "Torn Between" in Pop Culture

The idiom "torn between" has also been used in various forms of pop culture, such as movies, TV shows, songs, books, etc.

Here are some examples of how the idiom "torn between" has been used in pop culture:

  • In the movie, The Hunger Games (2012), the protagonist Katniss Everdeen is "torn between" her feelings for her childhood friend Gale and her fellow tribute Peeta, who she has to compete with in a deadly game.
  • In the TV show Friends (1994-2004), Rachel Green is "torn between" her ex-boyfriend Ross and her new boyfriend Joey, who are also best friends.
  • In the book Twilight (2005) by Stephenie Meyer, the heroine Bella Swan is "torn between" her love for the vampire Edward Cullen and her friendship with the werewolf Jacob Black, who are also enemies.
  • In the movie La La Land (2016), the main characters, Mia and Sebastian, are "torn between" pursuing their dreams of becoming an actress and a jazz musician or staying together as a couple.

Other Ways to Say "Torn Between"

Here are some synonyms and alternative expressions for "torn between":

  • Caught between
  • Undecided between
  • In a quandary between
  • In a pickle between
  • On the fence between
  • In two minds between
  • In a bind between
  • At a crossroads between
  • In a predicament between
  • In a tight spot between

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Torn Between"

Here are some common questions and answers about the idiom "torn between":

  • What does "torn between" mean?

It conveys a sense of indecision, conflict, or dilemma that one faces when they have to choose between two or more things.

  • What is the origin of "torn between"?

The origin and history of the idiom "torn between" seems to have emerged in the late 19th century in English literature and speech.

  • What are some synonyms for "torn between"?

Some synonyms for "torn between" are "in a tight spot between", "on the fence between", "in a bind between", etc.

  • How do you use "torn between" in a sentence?

You can use "torn between" in a sentence by following it with two nouns, gerunds, or clauses that represent the options that you have to choose from.

Example: I’m "torn between" chocolate cake and ice cream for dessert.

  • What does it mean to be "torn between" two lovers?

To be torn between two lovers means to have romantic feelings for two different people at the same time, and to be unable to choose which one to be with.

  • Is "torn between" a metaphor?

Yes, "torn between" is a metaphor that compares the feeling of indecision or conflict to the physical act of tearing something apart.

  • What is the opposite of "torn between"?

The opposite of "torn between" is decided, certain, clear, resolved, or determined.

  • How do you overcome being "torn between" two options?

There is no definitive answer to overcoming being "torn between" two options. However, some possible strategies are: making a list of pros and cons for each prospect, seeking advice from someone you trust or respect, listening to your intuition or gut feeling, and researching or gathering more information about each option.

  • What dilemmas can make someone feel "torn between" two options?

Choosing a career path or a major in college, ending or continuing a relationship, moving to a new place or staying where you are, quitting or keeping your job, etc.

  • What is the difference between "torn between" and "torn apart"?

The difference between "torn between" and "torn apart" is that "torn between" means to be in a dilemma or have to make a difficult choice, while "torn apart" means to be separated or destroyed by force or violence.

Final Thoughts About "Torn Between"

The idiom "torn between" is a valuable way of expressing a state of indecision, conflict, or dilemma one faces when choosing between two or more things.

Some key points to remember about the idiom "torn between" are:

  • It can be followed by two nouns, gerunds, or clauses representing the options one has to choose from.
  • It implies that the choice is not easy or obvious, and one feels divided or conflicted about it.
  • It can be used in various contexts and situations, such as personal, professional, moral, emotional, etc.
  • It has some variations and related expressions that use the word "torn" to convey a similar meaning of indecision or conflict.

We hope this article has helped you learn more about the idiom "torn between" and how to use it in your writing and speaking. Thank you for reading!

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