To suddenly stop working (of an appliance)

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GandalfMB

Senior Member
Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
Hello,
I have seen all these verbs "cut out, give out, break, die" used this way. For example: "Mom, the fridge just gave out/broke." or "The fridge is dead." I realize there are regional differences, but is it really that uncommon to use "break" in such contexts? "The toaster/washing machine/dishwasher broke." I have noticed that my friends from Essex tend to use "cut out" a lot, but it might be just them. I think "give out" is common, "...is dead" too, but what about break? It might be a little ambiguous. Basically, none of the appliance's parts might be broken, so the use of break is probably considered odd.



Thank you
 
  • Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    To break is perfectly normal in this context. It does not necessarily mean that a part is broken, merely that the appliance is not working, or not working correctly. "to cut out" or "to die" has a more specific meaning, meaning that the machine stopped doing anything at all. A washing machine which fails to do anything when you turn it on can be described as dead or broken. One which functions but leaks can still be described as broken.
     

    GandalfMB

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
    Break has a broader meaning, fine. Don't you use "give out" in BE? Do "to cut out" and "to die" have the same meaning then? The people I know seem to be using "cut out" all the time. I don't know why. Even more minor faults.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    To die and to give out mean the same thing - the machine stops working, as if they have died of old age. If you are using a cordless drill, for example, it will start turning slower and giving up more easily, before eventually it stops working altogether.

    To cut out means to behave as if the current had suddenly been cut - this typically means that a fuse or thermal cut-out has engaged, or in the case of a vacuum cleaner that you have pulled the power cord out of the socket.

    It is not uncommon for people to use these terms in situations which don't exactly fit the definitions I have given. I believe this comes about from copying what they hear without understanding the nuances. If you say that a whole group of people are using one term in preference to the others, this is almost certainly why.
     

    GandalfMB

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
    To die and to give out mean the same thing - the machine stops working, as if they have died of old age. If you are using a cordless drill, for example, it will start turning slower and giving up more easily, before eventually it stops working altogether.

    To cut out means to behave as if the current had suddenly been cut - this typically means that a fuse or thermal cut-out has engaged, or in the case of a vacuum cleaner that you have pulled the power cord out of the socket.

    It is not uncommon for people to use these terms in situations which don't exactly fit the definitions I have given. I believe this comes about from copying what they hear without understanding the nuances. If you say that a whole group of people are using one term in preference to the others, this is almost certainly why.
    I agree. My ex said to her mother "Mom, the microwave just broke." I think that cut out fits this context much better. The microwave wasn't broken though. A part had to be replaced. Do you agree? It was working fine and it suddenly cut out (as if the current had been cut).
     

    GandalfMB

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
    To die and to give out mean the same thing - the machine stops working, as if they have died of old age. If you are using a cordless drill, for example, it will start turning slower and giving up more easily, before eventually it stops working altogether.

    To cut out means to behave as if the current had suddenly been cut - this typically means that a fuse or thermal cut-out has engaged, or in the case of a vacuum cleaner that you have pulled the power cord out of the socket.

    It is not uncommon for people to use these terms in situations which don't exactly fit the definitions I have given. I believe this comes about from copying what they hear without understanding the nuances. If you say that a whole group of people are using one term in preference to the others, this is almost certainly why.
    Can "to break down" and "to cut out" be similar in a way? I turn something on, but after a few minutes it suddenly breaks down/cuts out. Is it correct to say that?
     
    Last edited:

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    Those are valid expressions. Note that I am an engineer - to me they mean slightly different things, but that's not necessarily how the general population would see it. (We've already discussed "to cut out" - "to break down" means to suffer some kind of mechanical failure)
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Give out meaning 'to stop working' is perfectly okay. See the MacMillan dictionary entry here for BE.:).

    Just as an aside, if I were talking about a fridge or a car or something I might well say that it had 'given up the ghost' or that it had 'conked out'.
     

    GandalfMB

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
    Give out meaning 'to stop working' is perfectly okay. See the MacMillan dictionary entry here for BE.:).

    Just as an aside, if I were talking about a fridge or a car or something I might well say that it had 'given up the ghost' or that it had 'conked out'.
    Yes, I have heard people say that. As you have already pointed out, it refers to a major fault. If something conks out it, gives out, it dies, etc. Glasguensis has already pointed that out :). Please, understand that I am not trying to annoy anyone by asking questions. And yes, Glasguensis, because you are an engineer your opinion is extremely valuable/appreciated. People, native or non-native speakers generalize all these verbs to the utmost degree. The difference varies with the regions, of course. I am surprised that "give out" sounds fine to you, london calling. I have had conversations with friends from England and I have spent a lot of time there, but nobody tends to use it. Not of the people I know. The US speakers use it, though :).
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    If something gives out, it stops working. I don't know which part of the UK you're familiar with, Gandalf: I'm from London and I can assure you that it sounds perfectly normal to me.;)
     

    variegatedfoliage

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I associate give out with something breaking under mechanical strain: the legs of a table bearing too much weight, a motor pushed beyond its limits, etc. It can also refer to a part or the whole of someone's body.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    We tend to use "die" in such situations (even though whatever has gone wrong may not actually be fatal): "I was cleaning the carpet, and all of a sudden the vacuum cleaner died!"
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I associate give out with something breaking under mechanical strain: the legs of a table bearing too much weight, a motor pushed beyond its limits, etc. It can also refer to a part or the whole of someone's body.
    It cam means that in BE too, although i would be more likely to say (for example) that the table legs gave way due to the strain. However, if you take a look at the link I provided above it says this, I quote:

    2. [INTRANSITIVE] if something such as a machine or a part of your body gives out, it stops working
    His heart finally gave out under the strain.

    Synonyms and related words
    To stop working (of a piece of equipment):break down, go off, shut off,
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If I'm speaking the moment something goes wrong: "Oh oh... The washing machine's stopped", "The television's not working", etc.

    If I am reporting the incident later, after failing to revive the appliance: "The washing machine's gone wrong", "The television packed up yesterday" (apparently regional: I recall a US member saying in another thread, "This would not be understood":D), "The washing machine's on the blink", etc.

    I would not use "break" in either situation.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    If I'm speaking the moment something goes wrong: "Oh oh... The washing machine's stopped", "The television's not working", etc.

    If I am reporting the incident later, after failing to revive the appliance: "The washing machine's gone wrong", "The television packed up yesterday" (apparently regional: I recall a US member saying in another thread, "This would not be understood":D), "The washing machine's on the blink", etc.

    I would not use "break" in either situation.
    As I was reading through the posts, I also saw this time element:

    When it happens: "It has stopped [working]." -> "John! What's wrong with the radio? It has stopped [working]?"
    When reporting it: "It's gone wrong." -> "I wanted to listen to the radio but it has gone wrong/packed up/died, etc.
    Some time later when remarking upon the item - "It's broken." -> A: "Is that old radio any good?" B: "No. I should throw it away - it is broken."

    The verb seems to make a transition from has to is and thus participle to adjective. Accompanying this there seems to be the transition of verbs from those expressing a hope/possibility that the item is repairable to the acceptance that it is not.

    These two stages have their own words/phrases but there is overlap.
     

    GandalfMB

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
    If I'm speaking the moment something goes wrong: "Oh oh... The washing machine's stopped", "The television's not working", etc.

    If I am reporting the incident later, after failing to revive the appliance: "The washing machine's gone wrong", "The television packed up yesterday" (apparently regional: I recall a US member saying in another thread, "This would not be understood":D), "The washing machine's on the blink", etc.

    I would not use "break" in either situation.
    Don't you ever use "to die" in such contexts, sound shift?
     

    variegatedfoliage

    Senior Member
    English - US
    If something has broken? Does that mean that you use "break" as in "The washing machine has broken" in your corner of the world? "Break" or "Break down", which would be your word of choice?
    For machines, I would use break down to mean a gradual process of wear that results in malfunction, for example, when your car stops working while you're out on the road: "The car broke down and we had to have it towed." For cars, you would always use break down, but for parts of the car you'd use break.

    I don't think you can go wrong most of the time with just "something broke." It would just be the most generic way of saying it.
     

    GandalfMB

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
    For machines, I would use break down to mean a gradual process of wear that results in malfunction, for example, when your car stops working while you're out on the road: "The car broke down and we had to have it towed." For cars, you would always use break down, but for parts of the car you'd use break.

    I don't think you can go wrong most of the time with just "something broke." It would just be the most generic way of saying it.
    Thank you. Break down is reserved for cars, yes.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thank you. Break down is reserved for cars, yes.
    In my experience, this is not so.

    I could not say, "The television broke", whether the picture disappeared a moment ago, yesterday or earlier.

    All this confirms my belief that there is a lot of regional variation in this area of vocabulary.
     
    Last edited:

    GandalfMB

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
    In my experience, this is not so.

    I could not say, "The television broke", whether the picture disappeared a moment ago, yesterday or earlier.

    All this confirms my belief that there is a lot of regional variation in this area of vocabulary.
    Hello, sound shift,
    I did not mean it was only used for cars. I should have said "It is very often used this way". As for "The TV broke," I don't know. It might be okay in some regions and unacceptable in others.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Don't you ever use "to die" in such contexts, sound shift?
    I do. However, as sound shift and I originate in the East Midlands, but I have now live in the South for 30 years, and as you, GandalfMB, are in a neighbouring county to me, it may be that "The TV has died!" is more a southern expression.
     

    GandalfMB

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
    I do. However, as sound shift and I originate in the East Midlands, but I have now live in the South for 30 years, and as you, GandalfMB, are in a neighbouring county to me, it may be that "The TV has died!" is more a southern expression.
    Yes, I assume so. Unfortunately, I am not from Essex, Paul.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I'm somewhat surprised as it is entirely natural and unremarkable for me to say and hear "It's died on me." or "The <insert appliance> has died - buy a new one/I'll try and fix it."
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    If I say 'my mobile's dead' I mean the battery's flat, not that it isn't working because it's broken. If I were to hear someone say 'my mobile's died on me', I'm not sure how I would interpret it (Flat battery?/Broken?).
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Conk out in relation to mechanical items seems somewhat dated. A quick look at Google Ngram (BE) and Google Books shows that the current use is "to fall asleep from exhaustion."
     
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