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What verbs would you use to convey the idea of someone having broken/putting something out of order.

  1. My car won't start! You /broke it/broke it down/put it out of order/ruined.
  2. My computer doesn't work! You /broke it/broke it down/put it out of order/ruined.
  3. My washing machine doesn't work! You /broke it/broke it down/put it out of order/ruined.
  4. My washing machine doesn't work! You /broke it/broke it down/put it out of order/ruined.
  • Possibly 'sabotaged'? – Kate Bunting Oct 12 at 10:16
  • I don't know. Can you break down a car? – user1425 Oct 12 at 10:32
  • It won't work! You must have damaged it! – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 12 at 13:22
  • No, we say that a machine breaks down, not that somebody breaks it down. Sabotage is deliberate damage inflicted on a machine. – Kate Bunting Oct 12 at 13:34
  • @Kate Bunting However, it's possible to break someone down emotionally for example? Right? I heard it today from an American speaker. – user1425 Oct 13 at 10:04
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If you knew for certain it was broken, you would say “you broke it”.

Other common expressions, given that you’ve already described the problem/state (i.e. the car won’t start), would be:

My car won’t start - you’ve done something to it!

My car won’t start - what have you done to it?!

This basically avoids the presumption inherent in saying “you broke it”, which is useful when you don’t know whether the thing would actually be considered broken or not; you’re simply stating the problem as observed, and then accusing them of being responsible for it.

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  • I was told that it's not idiomatic to say "You broke my car". – user1425 Oct 12 at 11:28
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    It’s probably not, because people tend not to know what’s wrong with their cars, and “broke” is probably too generic for something so technical anyway. This is why I think you’d usually hear, “you’ve done something to it”, or, “it’s because of something you’ve done”. – Chris Mack Oct 12 at 11:55
  • The argument was that if you say it you would mean that you broke it into pieces which is improbable in reality. – user1425 Oct 12 at 12:12
  • No, “broke my car” wouldn’t be interpreted as having broken it into pieces. It might be viewed somewhat humourously given the great complexity of a car, perhaps similar to saying “you broke my house” or “you broke the world”. – Chris Mack Oct 12 at 12:59
  • I think "you broke my car" is okay. "My car is broken." "Oh, why?" "Sam broke it." – user253751 Oct 12 at 14:04

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