If you see, I was broken makes sense to me. It means you're having a very difficult time due to say some tragedy.

But I want to say it like Once you are broken, it will always xyz. But to me, it seems tragedy happened recently and you're still affected a lot. But what if I want to say the same for a tragedy that happened long ago? Does the following sentence makes sense?

Once you have been broken, it will always xyz. My specific doubt about this is: Does have been here mean that somebody else deliberately and specifically caused trouble to you? Is the sentence hinting to some other person?

1 Answer 1


"I was broken" could be interpreted two different ways:

  • with "was" as the copula (the verb to be) in the past tense, and broken as an adjective meaning damaged.

  • as the past tense of the passive construction "to be broken", indicating somebody or something broke the subject, but avoiding mention of who or what did it.

"I have been broken" is just the present perfect version of that second sense.

The basic meaning is the same. The difference is that the present perfect emphasizes that the action (being broken) happened before the present time, while the simple past describes the action as a single event in the past. In practice this may imply no real difference in meaning at all.

  • I think this answer fails to explain the difference between the passive voice (with sb/sth breaking / having broken you) and copulative be followed by an adjective (similar to feel / have felt broken).
    – Gustavson
    Aug 9, 2020 at 0:32
  • @Gustavson, both expressions are in the passive voice, so there's no difference to explain.
    – The Photon
    Aug 9, 2020 at 0:33
  • Sorry, but you are wrong. One thing is saying the window is broken (in a broken condition) and another is saying the windown is broken (by somebody/something). Only the latter is passive.
    – Gustavson
    Aug 9, 2020 at 0:35
  • 1
    @Gustavson, "I was broken" could be interpreted either way. I've edited to include the copula/adjective possibility.
    – The Photon
    Aug 9, 2020 at 0:44

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .