"but his phone was switched off"

What would be the meaning of above sentence?

A) his phone was switched off by someone. (Passive Voice)

B) his phone was automatically switched after battery discharged. (Transitive Verb switched off)

C) gives idea about status of phone. (Reported speech or statative sentence)

  • 1
    I think it means his phone was off (no matter how or why)-general speaking
    – Cardinal
    Aug 31, 2015 at 17:07

3 Answers 3


But his phone was switched off.

Switched is the past participle. You form the passive voice with the expression be + past participle + by + someone. As it doesn't indicate who switched off his phone, the said sentence means (A) His phone was switched off by someone.

You can also use switch off as an intransitive verb such as "His phone switched off".

The sentence may express (C) the status of the phone, but it's more idiomatic and common if you say "His phone was off".


As you have discovered, switch off here is vague and without more context, it really could mean any of the three.

I would tend to assume C if I heard these words without any context at all, as if someone were to come up to me and start a conversation about a phone, I would expect them to say "by someone" if who switched off the phone is important.

Switch off tends to mean to actively do something to power something off. While this could apply to many modern smartphones that actually do shut themselves off when the battery is low, I hear more often the term "my phone died" or "my battery ran out" if that's what happened.


I would say

Definitely C) regardless of the reason, whether it be A) or B) or D) etc.

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