1. When we say "The glass was broken" it means when we looked at it, it had been broken before, that is, it shows a state that could be spread over a period of time. But when we say "it got broken" it shows a happening at a particular point of time.
  2. But that is not true for the verb "bear". When it changes to passive form, it won't be a state, but a happening. When I say "I was born in 1990" it dosn't show a state, but a happening at a point of time. So I wouldn't need to say "I got born in 1990."

What's the difference between these 2 verbs "1.break" and "2. bear"?

These have the same structure above, but different meaning in passive forms using be verbs. One shows a state and the other shows a happening.


2 Answers 2


This is a case of English treating "broken" like an adjective. Actually, "broken" can be used either to describe a specific event (in which case broken is a verb), or to describe a state.

  • The glass was broken (meaning it has been broken for a while). (This is the imperfect past tense of "to be", plus the adjective "born", no different from "the glass was green").
  • The glass was broken at 7:43pm yesterday when it fell off the table. (This is the passive perfect past tense of the verb "to bear"; "born" is a participle in this case, no different from "the glass was purchased at 7:43pm").

By comparison, "born" cannot be used as an adjective because it is by definition a specific instant in time (at least as it is used in English). So, when you say "he was born", there is no possibility that you mean to say "he has been born for a long time"--that doesn't mean anything in English. It is assumed that "he was born" is a past tense perfect verb and not an adjective used with the past tense imperfect of the verb "to be".

Note: The phrase "it got broken" is not correct in written English, although you might see it used colloquially.

  • "It got broken"... while "got" is often used inappropriately, using it to distinguish between event and state for verbs like this does occur both in speech and writing. It's worth mentioning, though, that the intransitive form "it broke" is much more widely used, and it can only relate to an event books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – JavaLatte
    Jan 29, 2018 at 9:51

Both "broken" and "born" are what are known as past participles of their respective verb forms. This means that they are functioning as adjectives rather than verbs in the form. Note the past in past participle; these things happened in the past, but without further information exactly when the breaking or birth took place cannot be known. In your sentence "I was born in 1990" you have provided a specific time as to when the birth took place. However in your example "The glass was broken" you did not, meaning that it could be understood as the glass is now broken, but I do not know when the break occurred.

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