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My son wants to watch the children's TV show, Peg + Cat on his computer. He scrolled the mouse down to the show's folder, but when he double clicks on the folder, it does not open; a pop up menu displays instead. I wanted to tell him that the mouse is not functioning well because the right button was stuck.

  1. Do you informally say the mouse is busted/broken? If not, what do you say? Bear in mind the mouse still scrolls and sometimes with a few clicks 'it gets on'.
  2. By the way, is using 'it gets on' to mean 'it works' correct? If not what phrasal verb would you use instead?
  • as a Computer Programmer I would define a situation like "right mouse button stuck" as simply "mouse stuck", instead of saying "it's broken". Which also means it will keep working. – Berker Yüceer Nov 11 '13 at 14:53
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If an item does not work fully as expected, it is perfectly fine to call it broken (normal) or busted (informal) - you can distinguish with something fully non-functional by calling those items completely broken (normal) / totally busted (informal).

In answer to your second question - no. If the object is functional, you cannot say "it gets on". You can say "it turns on" if you want to, but it would be more normal to just say "it works" or "it's working normally".

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Here are two words/expressions you could use:

The mouse is flaky.

NOAD lists one meaning of flaky as:

flaky (adj.) informal (of a device or software) prone to break down; unreliable.

The other expression is:

We'll have to get a new mouse soon. The mouse here is on the fritz.

Cambridge defines this expression to mean:

on the fritz US informal broken or not working: The fridge is on the fritz.

Another dictionary says:

A condition in which something does not work properly: Our television is on the fritz

I often hear "on the fritz" when someone is referring to electronic systems and devices in particular – that is, things such as computer monitors, air conditioners, microwave ovens, and the like. You can see several published examples on this page.

  • I never heard on the fritz before, but this NGram suggests it's primarily an Americanism. For all that, in the written form at least, on the blink seems to be more common on both sides of the Atlantic. It's certainly what I'd use. – FumbleFingers Nov 11 '13 at 19:20
  • @Fumble - Almost every source I checked listed as an Americanism. I've heard of "on the blink," but I think "on the fritz" would be a bit more common over here. Thanks for offering up an alternative that works on either side of the ocean. – J.R. Nov 11 '13 at 19:57
  • COCA appears to confirm that "on the fritz" is slightly more common over here. It has 66 results, compared to 45 results for "on the blink". – snailboat Jan 3 '14 at 5:51
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In this case where a computer mouse is not working fully, you can say that it is not working properly. The word busted can be used informally but, it is not in common use everywhere. It is probably part of American English. The word broken can also be used but, would require clarification to make clear whether something is partly or completley broken.

Regarding the second question, I agree with Matt's answer.

  • I agree with @Tristan if something is partially broken you should make a clarification. – Berker Yüceer Nov 11 '13 at 15:00
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A very common way to say this is simply "there is something wrong with the mouse".

This wording doesn't imply any diagnosis of the mouse being broken.

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