Most dictionaries say "turn" is a transitive verb in "turn something <-> on/off". For example, "I turned the hair dryer on/off"

Can "turn" in this case is an intransitive verb?

Can we say "a piece of equipment turns on/off"?

For example, "I dropped the hair dryer (which is plugged in) and it happened to turn on"?

Other phrases that we can use are "come/go on" or "start working".

But "I dropped the hair dryer (which is plugged in) and it happened to go/come on" or "...it happened to start working" don't sound good.

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    Yes, appliances, e.g. computers, video recorders, can turn on or off by themselves, e.g. at a selected time. Jul 13, 2022 at 7:08
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    (Since the sentence is in the past tense you need which was plugged in or while it was plugged in.) I was going to say the opposite to Michael - come on or turn itself on sound more natural to me. Jul 13, 2022 at 7:11
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    @KateBunting - 'Why does my computer/TV/phone/car radio turn on by itself?' seems to be a very common query on Google (faulty remote, timer set and forgotten, loose power connection etc). I think that 'come on' vs 'turn on' might be a US/UK thing. People of a certain age and above might remember Timothy Leary's exhortation. Jul 13, 2022 at 9:07

1 Answer 1


I don't know which dictionaries you're using, but M-W lists intransitive senses for both "turn on" and "turn off". It also includes an intransitive definition for "turn" that is relevant:

b(1): to pass from one state to another : CHANGE
// water had turned to ice

The following would be perfectly fine, for example:

My house lights turn on at 8:00 pm every night.
The dishwasher turned off by itself.

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