Broke or Broken: Which Is Correct? (Helpful Examples)

The past tense creates a hurdle that many people need to get over before mastering English. This article will look at the past tense of “break” and how we can use the two different forms correctly.

Broke or Broken: Which Is Correct?

“Broke” is the simple past tense and means something that broke in the past and can’t be affected in the present. “Broken” is the past participle of “to break,” which we use in perfect tenses to talk about something that we might still be able to affect in the present.

Broke or Broken

The simple past tense is much easier than the perfect tense because it comes with extra challenges. However, these two examples will cover both variations:

  • I broke into the school last weekend.
  • I have broken down on the highway, and I don’t know how to fix it.

“Broke” works on its own as a verb form. “Broken” requires an auxiliary verb like “have” to turn it into the present perfect tense.

Past ParticipleBroken
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When Is “Broke” Correct?

Let’s take a closer look at each verb form.

“Broke” is correct when used as the simple past tense. This means that something has broken in the past, and there’s nothing we can do in the present to change that. Typically, we’ve moved past the event that occurred when the thing “broke.”

The simple past tense is called “simple” for a reason. It doesn’t require any extra words or tenses to help us demonstrate it. That’s why we started with it, as it’s the easiest one to explain.

Example Sentences Using “Broke”

Some examples might go a long way to help you understand exactly how the simple past tense works.

  1. We broke down in the middle of the road, but we ended up alright.
  2. I broke down in tears when I heard the news.
  3. I broke the watch, but you mustn’t tell my father!
  4. We broke the heater, and we can’t figure out how to fix it.
  5. She broke it! Not me!
  6. Which one of you broke my new pair of trainers? I’m incredibly disappointed.
  7. He broke into the bank to try and rob it of millions of dollars.
  8. They broke into the casino, but it didn’t take long for them to be thrown out and arrested.
  9. We broke the only thing that ever mattered to us!

“Broke” is the simple past tense, and we use it when something breaks in the past, and there’s nothing that can be done now to change that event.

When Is “Broken” Correct?

“Broken” is much more complicated. The perfect tense isn’t easy to wrap your head around. Even native speakers still struggle to understand when it works.

“Broken” is correct when used as the perfect tense. It can be used in the past, present, or future perfect tenses. Each tense needs an auxiliary verb to accompany it for the sentence to be grammatically correct.

The perfect tenses follow auxiliary rules like this:

  • Past perfect:Had broken
  • Present perfect:Have broken
  • Future perfect:Will have broken

“Had” is the past perfect auxiliary because something happened in the past and has an impact on something in the present.

“Have” is the present perfect because something started in the past and is continuing in the present.

“Will have” is the future perfect to imply that something will happen if something doesn’t change in the present.

Example sentences using “Broken”

To elaborate on the perfect tenses, we’ll include some examples and break them into segments. Hopefully, this will be a much greater help for you when trying to figure out what the tenses mean individually.

Past Perfect

  1. He had broken a new world record, but he didn’t know it at the time.
  2. We had broken a few too many items in the home, and my father finally asked us for some money.
  3. She had broken my heart yet again, so I finally decided to move on.

The past perfect uses “had broken,” and it means that something happened in the past that changed in the present. It’s still possible that the thing has an impact in the present, but there’s no way to change the outcome now.

Present Perfect

  1. I have broken my new watch, and I must get it fixed.
  2. We have broken down near our house, but we can’t move the car yet.
  3. They have broken into the school. Should we apprehend them?

“Have broken” is the present perfect tense, meaning that something started happening in the past but continues to happen in the present. We can change the thing happening if we allow ourselves to get involved (i.e., “fix” the object if it’s broken).

Future Perfect

  1. I will have broken every pair of glasses I own if I’m not careful with this one.
  2. She would have broken my heart again if I had taken her back.
  3. They will have broken down again, so their car clearly needs adjusting.

“Will have” or “would have” is the future perfect tense. It means that something might happen in the future if we don’t do something to change it in the present.

How “Broken” can also be used as an adjective

It’s possible that “broken” might not be used as a verb. Sometimes, we might see it used in another way.

“Broken” can be an adjective to describe something that has been broken or someone who has given up hope in some way. We can use it to describe things and people, and it does not follow any tense rules in adjective form.

Example sentences using “Broken” as an adjective

So that you’re not left pondering how “broken” works as an adjective, we’ll include some examples here.

First, let’s look at how “broken” can mean that something has been broken and how we can use it to describe an object in this way.

  • My broken arm has become increasingly sore.
  • This broken clock won’t sell for much, but it’s worth trying.

The other definition means that someone has lost their spirit or hope, usually because something terrible has happened to them or they’ve had a great setback.

  • He’s a broken man, and nothing will bring him back from the brink.

“Have Broke” Vs. “Have Broken”

“Have broken” is correct because “broken” is the past participle of “to break.” That means we use it in the perfect tense with the auxiliary verb “have.” “Have broke” is incorrect because “broke” is the simple past tense of “to break,” which needs no auxiliary verbs.

Final Thoughts

You can use either “broke” or “broken” as the past tense of “break”; however, in different forms. Examples: “I broke the watch” or “I have broken the watch”. The first is often something done in the past, and the latter has recently happened.

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