I was in a skiing accident and had my leg broken.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by ポール, Jan 25, 2008.

  1. ポール Member

    United Kingdom, English
    "I was in a skiing accident and had my leg broken."

    Basically, I get the feeling that the grammar of the above phrase may be off but I can't put my finger on why. Maybe I'm just imagining it.

    Specifically the 'had my leg broken' bit.
  2. Had my leg broken implies active agency, essentialy that somebody (another human being, probably) did it to you. So, grammar is OK but it's not perhaps the meaning you're after.

    I broke my leg would be normal.
  3. ポール Member

    United Kingdom, English
    Well first off I should say it's not 'my' sentence as such.

    Assuming for the moment that we're going to allow anthropomorphism then wouldn't it be "I had my leg broken in a skiing accident." ? I think that's how I'd write it if I was going to use "had my leg broken".
  4. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    More likely I would write: "I broke my leg in a skiing accident."

    In some languages you don't accept blame as written.

    In some languages you might write: "It fell, it broke."

    In English you are more likely to assess blame in the sentence and write, "I dropped it and I broke it."

    So I think you are more likely to write, "I broke my leg in a skiing accident" than "I had by leg broken in a skiing accident."
  5. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hi, ポール

    Yes, I agree with you that I had my leg broken in a skiing accident sounds better than I was in a skiing accident and had my leg broken. Like you, I find it hard to put my finger on the reason.

    I suspect it's something to do with MagdaDH's point about active agency: we expect "had my leg broken" to be followed by something which answers the question "who by". The blue sentence, by putting the accident second, at least provides a ready answer to the question "how", even if not - without anthropomorphism;) - to the question "who by".

    Let us know what you finally decide and whether the explanation works:)
  6. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    You will find many examples of "had his leg broken", but there are two generalities that
    apply to most of them:

    1) they describe events in which an animal was injured;
    2) there is an agent named that caused the broken leg.

    It's not wrong to state "I was...and had my leg broken", but it's not
    especially idiomatic if you don't name the agent (person, thing, event) that
    caused the breakage.

    Results 1 - 10 of about 13,700 for "had his leg broken"
  7. ポール Member

    United Kingdom, English
    That's an interesting point. To remove the anthropomorphism compare

    I was in a fight and had my leg broken.

    I had my leg broken in a fight.

    Hmm, I'm not really sure any more.
  8. Lexiphile Senior Member

    England English
    The problem with "I had my leg broken" is that it sounds as though you went looking for someone to do it for you, so you could get off work for a few weeks.

    As in "I had my car repaired" or "I had my leg bandaged." This latter sentence can mean either that your leg was in the condition of being covered with a bandage or that you went to the hospital because your leg needed to be bandaged. The same confusion arises with "I had my leg broken."
  9. Well, I would still say that I had my leg broken in a fight means one of the people who fought did it. If you broke it while fighting (eg because you jumped off a garage roof, or fell or sth) you would say I broke my leg during a fight or something along those lines.

    And yes, I think the Lexiphile's note on the whole "having sth done" construction is very right - so even if actually somebody else actively broke the leg, it would still, I think, sound a tiny bit odd because of this possible dual meaning.

    In fact, to me (but I am a non-native here and probably imagining things...), the following sentence: He had his leg broken after he refused to pay could, almost, imply that the first "he" is a different person to the owner of the leg, ie that he orders somebody to do the breaking:Frank had Joe's leg broken after Joe refused to pay.

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