21

I know these are correct:

I am done.

He is chosen.

My phone is broken.


But why do we say

I am broke.

instead of

I am broken.

Is that even grammatically correct?

77

In formal English both are quite grammatical, but they mean something different:

I am broken.

This means I am injured or in bad shape in some way.

I am broke.

This means that I have no money.


In colloquial speech, and even dialectic (informal) writing, some people do use broke in place of broken:

I'm all broke up about it.

It's similar to shook being used in place of shaken:

I'm all shook up.

This is understood and acceptable idiomatically, but it's not something that would be appropriate in a formal context.

Formally, the last two example sentences should be:

I'm all broken up about it.
I'm all shaken up.


Note that broke (see Merriam-Webster's definition) is the past tense of the verb break, and it can be used correctly in a formal context:

The chair broke.

But it's not an adjective. The only defined adjective broke is the one that means without money.

  • 8
    Thanks. I thought maybe when you say I am broke, the broke here is not the past tense of break, just a homonym of it. Like record(verb) and record(noun). – Hao Wu Jul 23 at 10:47
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    @HaoWu Yes, it can be frustrating when an identically spelled word actually has different meanings. We can only tell from context. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jul 23 at 10:48
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    @HaoWu The word broke meaning "out of money" does originally derive from break (when someone's business or other financial venture was broken), but that's been so long almost no one remembers. – chrylis -on strike- Jul 23 at 22:58
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    @HaoWu record (verb) and record (noun) are not exact homonyms. The verb has stress on the second syllable and the noun has stress on the first syllable. – CJ Dennis Jul 24 at 3:15
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    @jamesqf The precise term for words which are spelled alike but have different meaning is homographs. There is some inconsistency in exactly what "homonym" means, since some define it to be a word where either spelling or pronunciation is the same, whereas others require both. FWIW my (Collins) desk dictionary gives only the former definition. – Especially Lime Jul 24 at 14:12
17

"I am broke" doesn't refer to being broken. It's an informal way of saying that someone doesn't have any money left.

e.g. - "I can't order pizza today, I'm broke."

Cambridge dictionary

  • 9
    You have it backwards. The use of broke as an adjective to mean not having any money is not slang. It's a well-defined word. But saying I am broke to say that you're broken is slang and it does refer to being broken when used in that way. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jul 23 at 10:33
  • 1
    @JasonBassford My bad - I meant that 'broke' is a colloquialism, or is informal. I've never seen anyone say 'I'm all broke up', although maybe I'm just not following the right twitters – tryin Jul 23 at 11:05
  • @Tim Macmillan dictionary and Collins dictionary say otherwise. I'm sorry I couldn't find the OED entry – tryin Jul 24 at 8:10
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    @JasonBassford: The relevant definition in the full OED is broke 3 slang - In predicative use = broken adj.; ruined financially, bankrupt; (often less seriously) penniless. Maybe different people have different ideas about what "slang" means. Me, I'm with the OED here. – FumbleFingers Jul 25 at 1:02

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