Can you guys help me with my problem here. I"m confused between these two sentences:

My hand breaks


My hand is broken

As far as I'm concerned, for the first sentence "breaks" is a verb. Conversely, for the second sentence "broken" is an adjective. But is the first sentence grammatically correct? If it is, do both sentences indicate the same meaning?

  • To be precise, "broken" is a past participle: a form of a verb that behaves grammatically like an adjective. Feb 19, 2016 at 21:57
  • @IlmariKaronen: No, I think the OP is right: in this case it's a true adjective. (Well, I guess it depends on the meaning. In "My hand is broken, so I'm finding it hard to type", it's an adjective; in "Once or twice a year, my hand is broken by one farm implement or another", it's a participle. Without context, I read "My hand is broken" as implying the first reading, but I guess it's ambiguous.)
    – ruakh
    Feb 20, 2016 at 0:36

5 Answers 5


breaks can be both a transitive and an intransitive verb.


A stone broke the window.

"Window" is the direct object.


A pane of glass breaks when struck sharply with a hard object.

If you say "My hand breaks" without a direct object, your hand becomes analogous to the "pane of glass" in the second sentence, the example of the intransitive use. That is probably not what you mean to say. You probably mean to say that at this moment, your hand is injured. Your hand is broken.

Broken is the past participle of the verb break used adjectivally.

To express that something is currently in a particular state, we use "is" plus the past participle:

The glass is shattered.

The chair is painted.

The table is varnished.

The potato is peeled.

The past participle of many verbs is formed by adding -ed to the verb's bare infinitive:

heat, heated

cook, cooked

paint, painted

But some verbs are irregular and their past participles are formed in another way. For example

sing, sung

break, broken

bring, brought

think, thought

  • 4
    Note that "my hand is broken" almost always means "a bone in my hand is broken", and hardly ever means any other type of injury such as a sprain, cut, bruise, etc. The same thing applies to all body parts, especially those that contain bones. E.g., "broken leg", "broken arm", even "broken head" almost always refer to one or more broken bones. For other types of injuries, the word "broken" is rarely used, except possibly in jest. One might say "I broke my tongue" when what really happened is ones tongue is strained or sore or burned if one wants to have a little humor in the conversation. Feb 19, 2016 at 17:33
  • 1
    "broken head" is uncommon if not unheard of in my experience, but rather one hears "broken skull".
    – TecBrat
    Feb 19, 2016 at 18:25
  • @ToddWilcox: Exception being that a cut is sometimes referred to as "broken skin". Feb 19, 2016 at 22:52
  • There are alternatives to using the past participle. You could also say "My hand broke (when I hit the wall)"... or "your hand will break (if you keep hitting the wall like that". But you would more likely say "I broke my hand" or "You will break your hand".
    – JavaLatte
    Aug 23, 2016 at 15:30

It's also important to recognize that the verb "breaks" is in present simple. This verb tense is used to show actions that are habitual or facts.


She is a girl. They eat breakfast at 8:00.

Therefore, your sentence "My hand breaks" shows that your hand breaks frequently or habitually. Grammatically, it's fine, but the reader will wonder why your hand breaks so often.

  • Pretty much the only normal use of "my hand breaks", though not mentioned so far, that I can think of, is describing past events, such as "... then I fall, my hand breaks, I black out, next thing I know, I'm in the hospital".
    – LLlAMnYP
    Feb 19, 2016 at 18:12
My hand breaks
My hand is broken

They don't mean the same. You may use the first sentence when you want to indicate that you are using your hands to break something or you may also use it to tell that your hand will break when you do something.


  • My hand breaks a piece of wood with ease.
  • My hand breaks if I place it under a rock.

While the other sentence, "My hand is broken" is in past tense. It tells us that your hand is already broken. And it is definite.

  • But it's quite rare to use "breaks/breaking/broke" for body parts, though common to use "is/was broken", meaning the bone as Todd Wilcox says.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 19, 2016 at 20:27
  • My hand is broken is in the present tense. Jun 27, 2016 at 15:12

You are correct in thinking that the first sentence is using break as a verb whilst broken is an adjective. As such, the first example lacks an object. That is, "My hand breaks (something)". An egg for example. "My hand is broken." means as you would expect that your hand has broken bones. I believe the first sentence to be grammatically incorrect.

  • I'm not sure I'd call it "grammatically incorrect." (It may be a bit unusual, but it can make sense with enough surrounding context.) For example, a hockey player might say, "Every time the puck hits me in the hand, my hand breaks." After all, the verb break can be used intransitively; if we are taking a pottery class, I might say (as we remove the pottery from the kiln): "Your bowls are coming out perfect. My bowls break." And if we're sculptors, I might say, "My hands break" when people are wondering about those three-fingered hands on my statues.
    – J.R.
    Feb 19, 2016 at 20:11
  • It's grammatically correct, but an unusual thing to say. Feb 19, 2016 at 20:47

"As far as I'm concerned, for the first sentence "breaks" is a verb. Conversely, for the second sentence "broken" is an adjective. But is the first sentence grammatically correct? If it is, do both sentences indicate the same meaning?"

Both are grammatically correct. Both mean different things.

You would correctly say "my hand breaks" just at the time when your hand breaks. In practice, you wouldn't say "my hand breaks", you would say "oh my god, that hurts". One second later, saying "my hand breaks" would be incorrect.

"Broken" is both an adjective, and it is also the passive form of "break". If an accident broke your hand, you can say "my hand was broken in an accident" (passive form). You can say "my hand was broken", and nobody can say for sure if it is the passive form or an adjective. The passive form would only apply to a short time. For example "a month ago, my hand was broken by a heavy weight falling on it (passive form). It stayed broken for two weeks (adjective). "

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