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Can I say,

(a) The car is / was broken down.

(b) The car broke down last week.

(c) The car has broken down.
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Comments  (Page 2) 
No, big things (especially those with engines), break down. The car breaks down, the printing press breaks down, the backhoe breaks down.

Little things break.
Hi GG,

Thank you so much for your clear explanation.

It is fine to say 'The car is out of order' , then is it ok to say 'The watch is out of order' ? If yes, does it mean the same as 'The watch has broken/ is broken'?

Thank you very much.
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The watch / car doesn't run. The watch doesn't work. The restroom is out of order.
Hi Avangi,

Thank you very much.
Do you mean I can't say 'The watch is out of order'? Can I say 'The car doesn't work'? Since there are so many words to express somthing which can't work properly, I'm a little confused.

Thank you very much.
Anonymous
Hi Avangi,

Thank you very much.
Do you mean I can't say 'The watch is out of order'? Can I say 'The car doesn't work'? Since there are so many words to express somthing which can't work properly, I'm a little confused.

Thank you very much.

Can anyone please answer my above questions? Thanks!
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Hi Anon,

Actually the post I wrote about the car and the watch and the restroom was intended to show how hopeless it is to try to come up with a set of general rules. It's like trying to make rules for prepositions. What you end up with is a list of case-by-case applications.

I've never heard anyone say, "the watch is out of order."

I've never heard anyone say, "the car doesn't work." (Well, maybe someone who doesn't know any better.) If you want to know if the car is able to take you to the mall and bring you back again, you want to know if "it's in running condition." "May/can it be driven?" "Is it safe to drive?" "Will it get me there and back?"

There are many systems and separate units, many of which must work together properly, sort of like the human body. "Is something wrong with the cooling system?" "Does the radio play/work?" "Is the radio broken?" "Does the motor/engine run?"

"Does the car run?" = "Is it in running condition?" = "Is the car running?" (Not "is the motor running at this moment?") "Does the [convertible] top go down?" "What's wrong with the transmission? Is it slipping?" "Does the radiator leak?" "One of the tires is flat." "The driver's window doesn't work."

Happy motoring, A.
You can say "My watch is out of order", but the usual phrases are "My watch is broken" or "My watch isn't working".
You can say "The car doesn't work", but the usual phrases are "The car is broken down" or "The car won't start" or "The car won't run".
1. X broke = X was broken by someone or by something.

2a. X is broken = X does not function properly.

2b. X is broken = X is in two or more pieces.

3. X broke down = X ceased to function.

I would agree that #1 and #2a tend to apply to small or medium-sized objects, often man-made; while #3 tends to apply to larger pieces of machinery, usually with moving parts.

MrP
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When something breaks because of age or detererioration is deterioration considered the agent, or should we look for a secondary cause?

The balloon broke. Deterioration suddenly broke the balloon. Age caused the balloon to break. Can we avoid this by using "burst," or is that verb subject to the same rules?

Just as I picked up a small stack of check books, the rubber band around them broke and hit me in the eye. Age broke the rubber band.

The jetliner crashed after a section of the tail stabilizer broke.
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