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Difference between Be in a war and Be in the wars

be in a war

1. (of a nation) be in the state of war (also: be at war):

  • We are now in a war to the death with the German Empire.

2. participate in a military campaign:

  • They are on the point of putting up a war memorial, though none of the people who were in the war want it.

be in the wars—(Perfect Tense)

1. show signs of rough treatment or injury as a result of fighting, etc.:

  • The boy looks as if he has been in the wars.

2. be in bad shape, having had a lot of misfortunes:

  • Terry’s been in the wars a bit since his racing career ended—his wife left him and he became an alcoholic.