pen running out of ink/running low

redgiant

Senior Member
Cantonese, Hong Kong
Hi,
I'm doodling in my notebook during Mandarin Chinese class and the pen is running out of ink. I whisper to my classmate sitting next to me: "Can I borrow your pen. Mine is running low."

Do native speakers use "the pen is running out of ink" or "running low" in everyday conversation?
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    "My pen is running out of ink" sounds normal to me, redgiant. "My pen is running low" is understandable, but I don't think I've heard anybody use it.
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Do native speakers use "the pen is running out of ink" or "running low" in everyday conversation?

    I doubt it. When was the last time I used a pen that ran out of ink? Most of the "biros" I have had recently get lost way before the ink runs out.. I haven't seen an ink bottle with ink in it for years... So it would just not occur in everyday conversation.

    GF..

    I would go for "my pen is nearly empty/I need a new biro". Or more likely, I would just throw it away and start using another: without bothering anyone else.

    Mind you I have about 5 of the things in use lying around the house... And a load more in some tins.

    Am I the norm??
     

    redgiant

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Thank you owlman and George. I agree with you that it's very rare to run a pen out of ink unless you're trying to break the record for drawing the longest line possible with a single pen. A more common situation is that, after years of disuse, the ink has dried out and the pen doesn't work anymore.
     

    Sparky Malarky

    Moderator
    English - US
    Pens tend to stop rather suddenly. Many pens don't even show how much ink is left - they just suddenly quit writing.

    You would say "My pen is out of ink." If your pen did show the amount of ink in the barrel and you noticed it was getting low, you might say "I'd better get another pen, this one's about to run out of ink."
     

    Grefsen

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    "My pen is running out of ink" sounds normal to me, redgiant. "My pen is running low" is understandable, but I don't think I've heard anybody use it.
    I agree with owlman5. :thumbsup:

    I don't typically encounter this situation because I'm the one who always seems to have the extra pens that others want to borrow. :)However, if I was in that situation I would just ask if I could borrow a pen without explaining why I needed one, especially if I was in class and needed to whisper to my classmate.

    Most of the "biros" I have had recently get lost way before the ink runs out...

    I would go for "my pen is nearly empty/I need a new biro". Or more likely, I would just throw it away and start using another: without bothering anyone else.
    I just thought I would add that a "biro" is BE for what we typically call a "ballpoint pen" in AE.
     
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    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    The other day some students were taking a test with ballpoint pens (biros). At some point one student raised his hand and said he had a problem as the ink in his biro had run out and he wanted to borrow one. Now, how would you say it naturally in English?

    Excuse me, my ballpoint pen has run out of ink. Could I borrow one?
    Excuse me, my ballpoint pen is empty. Could I borrow one?
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I doubt if anyone would call it a 'ballpoint pen'.

    My pen's run out, can I borrow one off somebody?
    Can anyone lend me a pen? Mine's run out.
    Please could I borrow a pen, mine's run out.
     
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    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I don't know. I suspect he or she would just fill it with ink, wouldn't they?

    I guess they might ask to borrow some ink if they didn't have any of their own. But this seems unlikely.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I don't know. I suspect he or she would just fill it with ink, wouldn't they?

    Yeah, but say he wanted to borrow a biro. No student carries an ink bottle here in Poland.

    "My pen's run out." - So this might refer to both biros and classic ink pens, right?
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    "My pen's dry" is pretty unambiguous.

    But say I borrow a biro and it doesn't work (In Polish we say It doesn't write), do these two work? I guess you don't talk of biros being 'dry' when the run out, do you?

    Can you lend me another pen as this doesn't work?
    Can you lend me another pen as this isn't working?
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Yeah, but say he wanted to borrow a biro. No student carries an ink bottle here in Poland.
    And no one uses a refillable pen here. Basically.

    "My pen is out of ink" is a normal thing to say here, I think.

    I would ask someone, "Do you have a pen I could use?" I wouldn't ask to borrow their pen because then what would they use? Unless I knew they weren't using it and wouldn't need it during the time I had it.

    "Can I borrow your pen for a sec?" would be a casual way to borrow someone's pen briefly, say to sign your name on something.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Can you lend me another pen as this doesn't work?
    Can you lend me another pen as this isn't working?
    Again, it might be correct grammar but it's far too perfect and formal for real life - at least among friends.

    Pen is handed over. Person tries to use it.

    "It's not working. Do you have another one?"

    You generally wouldn't borrow a pen from a stranger unless forced by circumstances. And only for something brief. Then you would use very polite words.

    "Could I possibly borrow your pen for a moment?"

    You might add:
    - Mine has stopped working.
    - I can't find mine anywhere.

    in order to show you have made an effort to provide for yourself before asking them.
     
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    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I would ask someone, "Do you have a pen I could use?" I wouldn't ask to borrow their pen because then what would they use?
    But why do you assume I would be asking about the one they are using? Someone might have a few pens.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    No, we don't say that.

    But why do you assume I would be asking about the one they are using? Someone might have a few pens.
    Exactly. "Do you have a pen I could use?" "Your" suggests the one in your hand or that you are consistently using.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    In the U.S. we don't talk about pens being dry. We do talk about markers being dried out.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    Can I borrow your pen? = Can I borrow the pen you are using?
    Do you have a pen I can borrow? = Can I borrow a pen other than the one you are using?

    As for why you need to borrow a pen:
    My pen is out of ink/isn't working/is dead.

    Also, in real life, if someone is taking a test and their pen stops working, they scribble wildly on the paper and shake the pen and in doing so mime "student whose pen has run out of ink in the middle of a test." Everyone nearby will know what the problem is.
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    'Of ink' is implied.

    I remember my teachers, whenever we said 'My pen's run out', would invariably say 'Well, you'd better run after it then'. They thought it was hilarious. :rolleyes:
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I asked my friend from South Molton and he said this. :)

    I would probably say "Excuse me, my pen has run out can I borrow one please?"
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I remember my teachers, whenever we said 'My pen's run out', would invariably say 'Well, you'd better run after it then'. They thought it was hilarious. :rolleyes:
    Which is why we don't say that. Don't give them any opening. :)

    "My pen's out of ink." seems like our version of that. I don't think we'd even use run usually.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    Yes, you never want to give teachers the slightest chance to say something "funny." "My pen's dead" is also not a good thing to say, for the same reason (although I did suggest it).
     

    USMeg

    Senior Member
    English/USA
    I think "dead"/"died" for no longer functional/stopped working is a pretty common usage, at least in AE.
    I just discovered the battery is dead.
    My furnace died on the coldest day of the year.
    The elastic is completely dead in this waistband.

    If my pen was running out of ink, I'd even say, "My pen is dying. Do you have one I could borrow?"
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    I think "dead"/"died" for no longer functional/stopped working is a pretty common usage, at least in AE.
    I just discovered the battery is dead.
    My furnace died on the coldest day of the year.
    The elastic is completely dead in this waistband.

    If my pen was running out of ink, I'd even say, "My pen is dying. Do you have one I could borrow?"
    I completely agree. I meant that if a teacher is going to crack wise about 'my pen's run out' they might do the same for 'my pen's dead.'
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Can you lend me another a pen? This one doesn't write. :thumbsup:
    Oh, sorry, forgot to to provide context. Say I already borrowed a pen and it doesn't write. I ask that person to lend me another one, in which case, the example works, doesn't it?

    Can you lend me another pen? This one doesn't write.
     
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