The same clause in bold has different meanings in a. and b.:

a. Last night, my car was broken into.

b. I came home last night, and my car was broken into.

The clause in a. means that somebody broke into my car last night, while the same clause in b. means that my car was in the state of having been broken into.

So it's clear that the clause in a. is a verbal passive.

Is the clause in b. an adjectival passive, then? If so, in b., which is the adjective of the adjectival passive, broken or broken into (as a unit)?

Some Additional Examples Similar to Example b.

There have been some comments from BrE speakers questioning the validity of example b. above. I'm not too familiar with BrE, so I'd just be going to have to accept that example b. might sound 'off' to at least some BrE speakers. That does not mean, however, example b. is also wrong in North American English. So here are some examples I've just found where I think 'broken into' is used to describe a state of having been broken into:

b1. A Canadian news article The shop has only been open for two weeks and Bent had filled her books up fast before waking up at around 3 a.m. on Friday morning to find the shop had been broken into.

“I woke up on my 23rd birthday to my fiancé running frantically out the door, half dressed, cussing, and so I followed him to the shop that is on our property and it was broken into,” she said.

b2. An American Crime Log complied by a reporter 7:48 p.m. -- Deputies were dispatched to a Jerome Township residence in reference to the 37-year-old female homeowner reporting she was told by a neighbor that a 14-year-old Lincoln Township boy had jumped over her privacy fence and was on her property earlier in the day. Deputies checked the residence and it was not broken into. It was unknown if any items were stolen from the property due to the homeowner being out of town. The incident is under investigation.

b3. An American being interviewed Waxhaw resident and gun owner Clarence Shuler had five guns stolen out of his car in his driveway.

"It was probably one of the most upset I've ever been," he said. "I had put some in the car, loading them up so I wouldn't forget anything and I come out to go at 5:30 in the morning and my car is broken into."

  • 2
    No. The second phrase is not something a Brit would write. If at all it means I came home and found someone had broken into my car. If you want the state of being broken into, write "and my car was being broken into", but this sounds weird. One would say; "and someone was breaking into my car."
    – RedSonja
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 13:46
  • 3
    I don't see how b means "that my car was in the state of being broken into." I still read it as "my car" (subject) "was broken into" (passive voice verb phrase), indicating that when you came home, you discovered that someone had broken into your car. Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 13:46
  • 1
    Personally, I would say "had been broken into" in each of a. and b. Or possibly "somebody had broken into my car" or some such form.
    – puppetsock
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 13:50
  • 1
    You are taking nomenclature much too seriously. Calling some construction "an adjectival passive" does not magically make an adjective appear in it. The point of the sentences is that break into can be treated as a transitive verb and passivized as a unit. Whatever you label the constituents in them, broken into is a reified unit and can't be split up for nomenclature. Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 14:52
  • 1
    It's on the edge. Some would use it, and I wouldn't blink if they did. Others wouldn't; I'd use a contracted past perfect, personally, if I managed a coherent sentence at all in those circumstances. About what you'd expect from a cobbled-together participle run through the syntactic blender. Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 15:28


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