5 Minute Grammar Lesson – Is it Broke? or Broken?

It’s time for another 5 Minute Grammar lesson! Are you curious about the proper use of the words broke or broken? This quick post describes when to use each word and also lists common improper uses.

Are you curious about the proper use of the words broke or broken? This quick post describes when to use each word and also lists common improper uses.
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Broke or Broken? 

Let’s look at BROKE first.

In a nutshell, the word broke has two uses. First, it is a verb, meaning an object is damaged. Kaput. Trash. Finished.

I broke my car when I drove down mud road and shouldn’t have.

My kid broke her arm because she’s a little hooligan.

The plate broke when he dropped it on the floor.

However, BROKE, can also be used as an adjective to show that someone has completely run out of money.

I have no money. I’m broke.

She’s broke. She shouldn’t buy that.

He’s broke but he never has any money anyway.

They’re broke and spending money they don’t have.

How about broken?

BROKEN also has two potential uses, both adjectives. The first use, and most common, is to use BROKEN as an adjective to describe a noun that has been damaged and is no longer working properly. 

The car is broken. Don’t drive it.

He needs to go to the doctor because his arm is broken.

The grill is broken, so we’ll have to order pizza.

Another use for BROKEN is to describe a person who has given up all hope.

I am utterly broken every time I hear about someone’s broke grill.

So what’s the big problem with broke and broken anyway, you might well ask.

Well, I’m so glad you asked. The problem happens when the two words are confused with each other and something is described as BROKE  when it’s actually BROKEN. 

Help! My car is broke! {Unless the car has a secret money supply, it’s actually BROKEN and not broke.}

My arm is broke. It hurts so much! {Again, the arm is actually BROKEN and not broke.}

And it’s really that simple. Describe damaged objects as BROKEN, people who are beyond hope as BROKEN, and reserve the word BROKE for when you find yourself with no money. Got it? Good. 😀

Here are more grammar posts you may like:

How to make the word PEOPLE possessive

Bias or Biased?

Do to or Due to?

Less or Fewer?

Should have gone or Should have went?

And if you’re looking for helpful grammar resources, here are my top picks:

Grammarly – Instantly fix over 250 types of errors with this free web-based grammar checker!

Strunk & White Elements of Style

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation 

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation 

The Grammar Girl’s Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing

Are you curious about the proper use of the words broke or broken? This quick post describes when to use each word and also lists common improper uses.

Check back next Sunday for another quick grammar lesson! And if you’d like to get weekly grammar tips delivered straight to your inbox, please subscribe to my once a week newsletter. I promise I won’t spam you. 🙂

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Comments

  1. Another thing I've been seeing and hearing lately is, (example) "The car needs cleaned." When I went to school - '50's and 60's" we were taught "The car needs TO BE cleaned." or "The car needs a good cleanING." If grammar rules have changed, I wish someone would let me know. The idea of speaking like the first example is akin to nails on a blackboard to me!!

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