I was buying coffee today and the staff tole me that they couldn't make coffee at the time.

If I wanted to know the reason and I suspected it was because of the coffee machine. Are these three following sentences equivalent?

  1. did the machine break?
  2. was the machine broken?
  3. is the machine broken?

1 and 3 are both good.

If broken is understood as an adjective, 2 doesn’t work if you’re asking at the time you’re unable to get coffee. You want to know if it is broken. But if it’s understood as a past participle then it’s fine (“was it broken” is like “was it broken by somebody”). Since broken is more likely to be understood as an adjective then I would avoid asking this question.


In this context you would use #3, is the machine broken?

  • Person A: Sorry we can't serve coffee at the moment
  • You: Is the machine broken? (you want to know why, the current state)

Other context for #1 and #2...

  • Person A: I was trying to replace the water filter but you'll never guess what happened next!
  • You: did the machine break? (what happened)

  • Person A: I was trying to make coffee, but I couldn't

  • You: was the machine broken? (past tense / state)

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