Using Broke and Broken Correctly




Some people say

The glass is broke.

instead of

The glass is broken.


Whereas the PART of SPEECH that one would initially associate with broke and broken is the VERB, the focus of this lesson is on the use of these words as ADJECTIVES.

Note the differences between the two PARTS – OF – SPEECH in both broke & broken in the following sentences:

I broke my wife’s necklace. (VERB)
I’m broke after my wife insisted on buying her a new necklace. (ADJECTIVE)

I had broken the curfew twice before I was caught. (VERB)
The mirror is broken. (ADJECTIVE)

Be aware that the ADJECTIVE need not be positioned immediately before the NOUN, as this example shows:

It’s a sunny day. (ADJECTIVE sunny before NOUN day)
The day is sunny. (NOUN day before ADJECTIVE sunny)

It is said that money is the root of all evil and it could well be the reason why people incorrectly use broke. We’ve all used the expression I’m broke on occasions, meaning that one doesn’t have any money at a particular moment in time. So, broke goes hand in hand with a lack of money. Throw in bankruptcy as well.

The word broken on the other hand, should be used when referring to all other unfortunate situations, such as:

• a broken bone / hurley / machine
• a broken promise / agreement / engagement
• a broken man / woman (as in broken in spirit)
broken English / Spanish (as in not being fluent in a particular language)
• a broken – down bus
• a broken – hearted teenager


As previously stated, the use of the word broke in the expression I’m broke, has come to be associated with a bad – hopefully temporary – financial situation. And that’s where it – the word and not the financial status itself – should be kept under lock and key. However, human nature being what it is, broke has infiltrated other similar expressions of misfortune when the ADJECTIVE is positioned after the NOUN.

The pencil is broke.
The pencil is broken.

The glass is broke.
The glass is broken.

The cup is broke.
The cup is broken.

The handle is broke.
The handle is broken.

The television is broke.
The television is broken.

Likewise, when the PRONOUNS it, this, that, these and those are substituted for NOUNS, broken should be used.


It (referring to a watch) is broke.
It is broken. (It’s broken.)

This (referring to a cup) is broke.
This is broken.

That (referring to a plate) was broke when I unwrapped it.
That was broken when I unwrapped it.

These (referring to saucers) are broke.
These are broken.

Those (referring to glasses) were broke when I took them out of the box.
Those were broken when I took them out of the box.


The word broken can be used as either an ADJECTIVE – a broken ladder – or as the PAST PARTICIPLE of the VERB break when supported by has / have / had. (has broken / have broken / had broken) This lesson concentrates on the correct use of broken when used as an ADJECTIVE.

Except when referring to a situation whereby one is stony broke – or skint, to use a modern expression – after a night out or a holiday, the word broken is the correct word to be used for all other times of difficulty.


Write broke or broken in these sentences: (Take note that these sentences contain ADJECTIVES before and after NOUNS.)

1. The leg of the chair is ________.
2. The kitchen tile was _________.
3. The child’s finger was _______.
4. The teacher’s laptop is _______.
5. It is _________.
6. The handle of the brush is _______.
7. The shaft of the golf club was _____.
8. The flagpole is _______.
9. The remote control for the new television is _______.
10. This is _________.
11. I couldn’t understand him very much because of his _________ English.
12. He became a ______ man after the accident.
13. An X-ray revealed a _________ wrist.
14. Despite the ________ promises, both parties reluctantly agreed to meet again.
15. The _______- off engagement came as a huge surprise to everybody.
16. The latch was ________.
17. A ________ – down truck was abandoned in the bus lane.
18. The lever is _______.
19. They were _______ after paying €20,000 for the double wedding.
20. I’m ________ after spending all my savings on a round – the – world trip.


1. to 18. broken 19. & 20. broke


broke is the past tense of the VERB break, and also serves as an ADJECTIVE to describe a penniless person

broken is the past participle of the VERB break, and also serves as an ADJECTIVE when describing events of a hapless nature, except money woes


The glass is broken.