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Randall has been writing his paper when the electricity suddenly turned off

  1. The difference between "was turned off" and "turned off"

  2. Can I use present perfect progressive has been if "the electricity was turned off"?

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    It's very simple. The first one is idiomatic , the second one always sounds wrong. – Fattie Feb 17 at 11:39
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    In English it's common to say "the power" for "the electricity", and the phrasal verb "went off" (or even "went out") can be used if the cause is unknown and you don't want to say "turned off". Eg. "all of a sudden the power went off", "the electricity suddenly went out". (This comment will destruct as soon as a moderator sees it) – Aaron F Feb 17 at 12:19
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    Adding to AaronF, "lights went out" is typical. Compare with JamesK's answer's parts, and comments, about "by somebody". – Pablo H Feb 17 at 12:34
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    @Fattie you are mistaken; both are correct usages with different implications. See answers. – RJFalconer Feb 17 at 14:37
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    "Randall was writing his paper when the electricity suddenly turned off." That is the grammatically correct form of your first sentence should be. – RonJohn Feb 17 at 15:21
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"The electricity was turned off" implies "... by somebody". It means that there is a person (known or unknown) who chose to do it. You would say this when you know that the electricity company is deliberately turning off the power to save fuel.

On the other hand, "the electricity turn off" doesn't imply that somebody did it. If you think the power cut is probably caused by an accident you could use this.

In the 1970s the power was turned off on two or three days each week because oil was scarce.

The electricity turned off during the storm, but it came back on again the next day.

It is more natural to say "there was a power cut" instead of "the electricity turned off"

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    "Turned off" implies that somebody turned a switch. If the power cut (the Americans say outage, I believe) was accidental, you could say that the electricity "went off" – Kate Bunting Feb 16 at 9:55
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    You'll want to take your audience into consideration. @KateBunting is correct that we Americans would call the lack of power because of accident an outage (though planned outages are a thing that happens). "There was a power cut" sounds odd to my ear, though the similar sounding, "the power was cut" sounds fine - but carries the connotation that someone with ill-intent towards your person or property deliberately caused the outage. Oddly, "I'm cutting power to the _" doesn't have those connotations – Morgen Feb 16 at 21:23
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    There's a small typo here. Paragraph 2 should start, "On the other hand, 'the electricity turned off'..." The original post has "turn" instead of "turned" – Jason Smith Feb 17 at 6:50
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    I think "the electricity turned off" usually means the electricity turned itself off. Compare: "the dishwasher finished running" (by itself), "the fridge turned on" (by itself), "the ice melted" (by itself). Versus "the ice was melted" (by someone with a hair dryer, but this could also mean that you found the ice in a melted state). – user253751 Feb 17 at 10:48
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    @KateBunting As an American, I would strongly favor "went out" to "went off". This may have to do with our favoring of power outage. – TemporalWolf Feb 17 at 22:02
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1- one of the usage of perfect tense is to show an activity happens before another activity. As a result, it seems your sentence is incorrect, because you uses "has been writing", which is present perfect continuous, and you used "turned off", which is simple past.
Therefore your sentence tends to be "Randall had been writing his paper when the electricity suddenly turned off"

2- The light/ the electricity was turned of by me (passive voice)
3- you can use past perfect continuous , if you use "the electricity was turned off"

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  1. The difference between "was turned off" and "turned off"

 

Randall has been writing his paper when the electricity suddenly turned off.

Randall has been writing his paper when the electricity was suddenly turned off.

"The electricity turned off" suggests that the electricity turned off by itself.

"The electricity was turned off" suggests that someone caused the electricity to turn off:

Randall has been writing his paper when the electricity was suddenly turned off by the electrician.


There is another use of "was turned off": you could use it to indicate the current state of the electricity, as in this sentence:

Randall looked at the switchboard and saw that the electricity was turned off.

which is the past tense of:

Randall looks at the switchboard and sees that the electricity is turned off.


If you wrote this without "was":

Randall looked at the switchboard and saw that the electricity turned off.

this is the past tense of

Randall looks at the switchboard and sees that the electricity turns off.

We are talking about the electricity as if it was simple present tense, even though the overall sentence is past tense. Randall saw (in the past) that the electricity usually or periodically or normally turns off.

Randall looked at the switchboard and saw that the electricity turned off at midnight.

Or, he saw that it was possible to turn off the electricity.

Randall looked at the switchboard and saw that the electricity turned off. His old house didn't have a switch to turn off the electricity.


  1. can I use present perfect progressive has been if "the electricity was turn off" ?

You can use past progressive tense:

Randall was writing his paper when the electricity suddenly turned off.

or past perfect progressive tense:

Randall had been writing his paper when the electricity suddenly turned off.

To use present perfect progressive tense, the entire sentence should be present tense:

Randall has been writing his paper when the electricity suddenly turns off.

but it is strange to write about things happening in present tense. This tense might be used in a movie script.

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As others have said, "the electricity was turned off" implies that somebody turned off the electricity. If that's not what you mean, then you need to find a different way to phrase it.

Unfortunately, "the electricity turned off" is, at best, awkward, and arguably not grammatical. If you look at Merriam-Webster, "turn off" in the context of electricity or water is a transitive verb. You can't really use that verb in cases where there isn't somebody who did it.

Instead, at least in American English, "the electricity went off" is a common way to express this. Alternatively, there is the idiomatic expression "the power went out." In British English, you can say there was a power cut, and in American English you can say there was a power outage. But, for your context, you really want a verb or verbal expression, so I would suggest one of the first two. (You can also say that the electricity "went down" or "died".)

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