The use of the word “broke” as an adjective to describe something damaged or not working is very common. But it is incorrect! The reason has to do with how the word “broke” functions in different ways in a sentence. Let’s take a look.
BROKE: in verb form, is the past tense of “break.” (I broke my toe.)
BROKE: in adjective form, means “without money, poor.” (I was broke after my trip to New York City.) This is the only usage/definition of BROKE in adjective form — to lack money. Broke in adjective form does NOT mean “damaged”; that is another word altogether: broken.
BROKEN: in verb form, is the past participle of “break” (My little toe has been broken three different times!) It should be noted that the past participle of most verbs is formed by adding -ed, but “broke” is irregular. Thus, it is not “broked”; it is “broken.”
BROKEN: in adjective form, means “damaged or altered by breaking, not working.” (Don’t sit there — the chair is broken!) Broken in adjective form does NOT mean “lacking money.”
As you can see, the word broken can be used as either an ADJECTIVE – a broken ladder – or as the PAST PARTICIPLE of the VERB break when supported by has / have / had. (has broken / have broken / had broken). Here are some more examples:
CORRECT: “The toy is broken.” (You are describing the toy as damaged —-> use “broken”) ✔️
The toy is NOT broked. (“Broked” is not the correct past participle of “break.”) ❌
The toy is NOT broke. (Broke as an adjective means “without money.”) ❌
The toy is BROKEN. ✔️
Remember: An adjective modifies a person, place or thing (noun). The adjective “broke” means poor/without money, and the adjective “broken” means damaged.
The broke college student (poor)
The college student was broke (poor)
The broken phone (damaged)
The phone was broken (damaged)
In contrast, here are “broke” and “broken” in verb forms:
I broke my husband’s favorite glass. (past tense of break)
I had broken the screen of my phone twice before I finally bought a protective case. (past participle of break)
In summary, here are the correct usages:
BROKE is the past tense of the VERB break
BROKE is an ADJECTIVE when describing a person without money.
BROKEN is the past participle of the VERB break
BROKEN is an ADJECTIVE when describing something damaged, not working, etc.
The incorrect usages are:
BROKE as an adjective to describe something damaged
BROKED as the past participle of the verb break