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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Oct 11th, 2015, 01:24 am
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Default can't or won't?

Hi,
There's something wrong with the phone.
(a)It can't work.
(b)It won't work.

Which is correct? (a) or (b)?

Thanks.

Last edited by susan53 : Oct 12th, 2015 at 07:27 am.
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  #2 (permalink)  
Unread Oct 12th, 2015, 07:38 am
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Default Re: can't or won't?

In that context, neither. You're discussing a here and now fact which, in the context, can either be seen as a perment problem or a temporary one, depending on the speaker's perception of the event. So it would be :

- There's something wrong with the phone. It doesn't work - the speaker perceives the problem as permanent
or There's something wrong with the phone. It's not working - the speaker perceives the problem as temporary.

will expresses a prediction, so the conversation might continue something like :
A : There's something wrong with the phone. It's not working.
B: It's not plugged in. It won't work if you don't plug it in!


Or, in another context, imagine a meeting in a company which is discussing how to increase income.
A : I think we should increase our prices.
B: No, that won't work. We'll just lose customers.


As for can't, here the concept is "impossibility". Imagine that some new technological product has been announced and someone says : It's a good idea, but it can't possibly work in the way they say because ....... - ie it's not possible for it to work like that
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  #3 (permalink)  
Unread Oct 14th, 2015, 11:43 pm
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Default Re: can't or won't?

Hi susan,

Thank you very much for your great and clear explanation.
What's the difference between 'there's something wrong with the phone.' and 'the phone is out of order'?

Thanks.

Last edited by susan53 : Oct 19th, 2015 at 11:08 am.
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  #4 (permalink)  
Unread Oct 19th, 2015, 11:15 am
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Default Re: can't or won't?

In most contexts they'd be interchangeable. However, "out of order" means not working at all, whereas "There's something wrong with..." could also mean that there was a problem but the phone was still usable :
There's something wrong with this phone. I can hardly hear the person at the other end.

And of course, "out of order" is only applicable to mechanical objects, whereas "There's something wrong with..." could be used in much wider contexts :

There's something wrong with this door - it's really difficult to close it.
There's something wrong with david - he hasn't said two words all day.
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  #5 (permalink)  
Unread Oct 20th, 2015, 01:14 am
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Default Re: can't or won't?

Hi susan,

1)Is 'out of order' a permanent or temporary situation?

2) 'There's something wrong with...' can mean not working at all, right?

3)Is 'isn't working' or 'doesn't work' applicable to something like doors? Can I say:

The door isn't working, it's really difficult to close it.

The door doesn't work, we must get a new one instead.

Thank you very much for your help.
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Unread Nov 2nd, 2015, 06:40 am
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Default Re: can't or won't?

1. Generally temporary - it suggests that you're waiting for it to be repaired rather than that you need to replace it completely.

2. Either not at all or just not working well. Eg : My hairdryer isn't working properly. It's producing very hot air, but when I try and turn the heat down nothing happens.

3. No - it would only be used with mechanical or technological objects : The light isn't working - perhaps we need a new bulb but There's something wrong with the door - it doesn't close properly.
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Last edited by susan53 : Nov 17th, 2015 at 04:10 am.
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  #7 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 10th, 2015, 01:37 am
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Default Re: can't or won't?

Hi susan,

1. What kinds of things can 'be broken down' be used with?

2.'The phone is broken down' means it isn't working at all and needs to be repaired, right?

3. What's the subtle difference between 'the phone is out of order' and 'the phone is broken down'?

Thanks a lot.
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  #8 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 11th, 2015, 12:12 pm
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Default Re: can't or won't?

First of all the grammar. It should be : The phone has broken down
To break down can only be used as an active verb - not passive. here, you're describing a past event with a present result - so you need the present perfect : auxiliary HAVE + past participle of the main verb.

As I said before Break down is used with mechanical and technological objects - the car has broken down / the computer has broken down - and means is not working at all.

But think about a telephone - if you can't make a telephone call, the problem is probably not with the telephone itself, but with the telephone line. So you'd say : The phone isn't working or The phone is out of order meaning there's something wrong somewhere. You couldn't say The phone has broken down because it's not a mechanical problem with the telephone itself.
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Last edited by susan53 : Nov 17th, 2015 at 04:09 am.
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  #9 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 16th, 2015, 10:44 pm
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Default Re: can't or won't?

Hi susan,

In what situations would you use 'isn't working' rather than 'out of order' and vice versa? Are they always interchangeable?

Thank you very much.

Last edited by susan53 : Nov 17th, 2015 at 07:19 am.
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  #10 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 17th, 2015, 07:22 am
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Default Re: can't or won't?

"out of order" = completely dead /isn't working at all

"isn't working" could be It isn't working at all or It isn't working well/properly as in my example above : My hairdryer isn't working properly. It's producing very hot air, but when I try and turn the heat down nothing happens.

So they are sometimes interchangeable (when the machine isn't working at all) but not always (when it's only a partial problem).
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Unread Dec 29th, 2015, 02:57 am
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Default Re: can't or won't?

Hi susan,

Is it correct to say this:
'My watch broke down.'

Thank you very much.
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Unread Dec 29th, 2015, 03:45 am
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Default Re: can't or won't?

Hmm.... depends. You might say it if it was a very hi-tech version, but for most ordinary "mechanical" versions My watch is broken would be more likely. As I said above, break down tends to be used with more complex machinery/technology - eg :

I have to repair our terrible photocopier, which breaks down about twice a week.
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Unread Dec 31st, 2015, 02:23 am
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Default Re: can't or won't?

Hi susan,

Does the 'broken' in 'my watch is broken' mean to separate into two or more pieces? Or it just means 'isn't working' ?

Can I say
'There's something wrong with my watch'
or
'My watch is out of order'?

Thanks a lot and Happy New Year!

Last edited by susan53 : Dec 31st, 2015 at 05:09 am.
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  #14 (permalink)  
Unread Dec 31st, 2015, 05:10 am
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Default Re: can't or won't?

It just means "not working". And the other two would be fine.
Happy New Year to you too
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  #15 (permalink)  
Unread Jan 4th, 2016, 02:52 am
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Default Re: can't or won't?

Hi susan,

What else can 'to be broken' be applicable to when it means 'not working'?

Thank you very much.

Last edited by susan53 : Jan 4th, 2016 at 06:04 am.
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  #16 (permalink)  
Unread Jan 4th, 2016, 06:21 am
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Default Re: can't or won't?

Any simple tool or instrument which isn't working properly or at all can be described as "broken". For example :

- Don't take any notice of that thermometer - it's broken.
- I didn't make a cake because my food mixer is broken.
- I'm sorry it's so hot in here. The fan is broken.

The more complex the system or machine, the more likely it is that "break down" will be used instead.

- I had to walk up eight flights of stairs because the lift had broken down.
- I'd offer you a lift, but my car has broken down
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  #17 (permalink)  
Unread Jan 7th, 2016, 03:46 am
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Default Re: can't or won't?

Hi susan,

Can I use these expressions with toilets?

There's something wrong with the toilet.
The toilet is out of order.
The toilet isn't working.
The toilet is broken.
The toilet has broken down.

Thanks a lot.
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  #18 (permalink)  
Unread Jan 7th, 2016, 07:34 am
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Default Re: can't or won't?

"break down" is only used with machines. A toilet isn't a machine - so no. And The toilet is broken is less likely. But the others are fine.
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  #19 (permalink)  
Unread Jan 8th, 2016, 03:11 am
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Default Re: can't or won't?

Quote:
Quote susan53 View Post
And The toilet is broken is less likely.
Hi susan,

Could you please explain why? I'm confused.

Thanks for your help.

Last edited by susan53 : Jan 15th, 2016 at 10:28 am.
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  #20 (permalink)  
Unread Jan 15th, 2016, 10:30 am
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Default Re: can't or won't?

Probably because of what we discussed before - the ambigulty of the word broken : does it mean just not working or broken into pieces. And this case it isn't the toilet itself which is "broken" but the flushing mecahanism.
The toilet flush is broken. would be fine
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