In French we have an informal, but common expression to describe stuff that suddenly breaks (software programs, machines, etc.) without a clear explanation or warning: "tombé en marche", literaly "fell while running".

Is there something equivalent in spirit, in English?

  • 1
    Nowadays I think the usual expression is crash. Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 14:51
  • "It just quit", "It suddenly stopped", "It crashed", "It went catatonic", "BSOD".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 20:41
  • 1
    Simply fell over is quite idiomatic, and a very direct translation to boot. Prefix with suddenly to match the en marche. Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 2:47

2 Answers 2


Here's an informal phrase:

conk out (informal) 1 (of a machine) break down. ‘my car conked out’ - ODO

Here are a few examples in print:

  • As we got halfway through the exit, the car conked out for good. Hear Me Out by Chidi Asika-Enahoro

  • And when my headlight conked out in Amana, Iowa, I was guided into town by fireflies lighting the way on both sides of the road. College Confidence with ADD by Michael Sandler

  • Our GPS has conked out Fisherman by George Lowe


For software, generally "crash" would be the most common term.

For machines, I think we'd probably say that it "broke down".

But you couldn't use the same term in both contexts (computers or machines). If you used "break down" for both, you'd seem like an old fogey who didn't understand computers, and if you used "crash" for both, you'd seem like a hopeless millennial who can't remember ever living without computers.

  • 2
    If a computer failed because of a hardware problem then 'broke down' would be accurate, similarly if a washing machine stopped working because of a software or firmware problem then it could have said to have 'crashed'. Problems with a car's EMS, however, probably shouldn't be referred to as the 'car crashing', that would be confusing. Don't forget that the term 'crash' referring to software failure comes from the read/write head of a hard drive crashing into the disc, usually due to some form of hardware failure. It's all tombé en marche anyway.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 15:59

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