In each of the following sentences, what are the natural English verbs/phrases you would use?

  1. You are using your computer and then a power cut "happens?".

  2. You were beside your computer doing nothing, then your friend walked in and asked you why you were not typing the document. You wanted to tell them: "the power is gone/the power has gone"?


In American English, a localized electrical failure is a power outage or electrical outage; one covering a neighborhood or wider area is a blackout. The preferred British term appears to be power cut.

If you are using your computer and it loses power from the mains, you would say the power went out or the power has gone out (go out by analogy to fire or light, meaning to be extinguished). When asked why you aren't typing by a passerby who hasn't noticed, you would similarly explain the power is out.

Absent a major disaster or malfeasance, power cuts to consumers due to shortages are uncommon, so there isn't common terminology surrounding such events. They may be described as rolling blackouts in the media or load shedding by engineers. Power shortage is not in common usage for failure events, only to describe the overall state of the electrical grid (e.g. if additional transmission lines are not built, the state will face a power shortage by 2035). When a shortage of current causes a temporary drop in voltage, the event is known as a brownout.

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    In American English you might also hear the power cut out. This refers to the precise time at which the electricity stopped being available, and does not refer to the general state of a power outage. – Esoteric Screen Name Jun 3 '14 at 6:20

I would say

You're using your computer and then the power goes out.

I tell my friend "The power went out" or "we lost power."

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    I like the phrase "the power went out". This goes well together with another common phrase: "When will the power come back on? – Damkerng T. Jan 22 '14 at 19:04
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    @DamkerngT. it would go even better if we said that the power comes back in. :) – Codeswitcher Jun 3 '14 at 6:16

The current answers are correct. I would just add an informal term: "pull the plug", to denote when the power is cut off from some people or place.

  • Thanks. A usage example would make it clearer and more useful. – learner Jun 10 '14 at 23:20
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    Here is a specific example, and also a more general one: 1) "The power company pulled the plug from households that exceeded the electricity bill's 3 month deadline." 2) "The USA pulled the plug off Zanzibar's military aid programme, as a political pressure measure. – Josh Jun 11 '14 at 10:58

In the UK, people normally talk of a power cut http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/power-cut?q=power+cut when electricity stops generally. If the power stops throughout a building, that's a power cut. It usually affects more than one building simultaneously, in an area.

If the lack of power only affected one, particular device, like a computer, that would not be a power cut. That would be something else; a problem with that device.

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