I have come across the following the sentence : (I ripped my shirt on a nail )

Can I just say " The nail ripped my shirt " instead .

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    //I ripped my shirt on a nail.// It sounds like one consciously did it. Else, it can be "My shirt was ripped by a nail; My shirt got ripped on a nail", etc. It is not wrong to say, "The nail ripped my shirt" but it needs to be linked to a context like, "When I was repairing my bike, the (a) nail ripped my shirt."
    – Ram Pillai
    Apr 25, 2020 at 12:17
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    Yes -----------
    – Greg Lee
    Apr 25, 2020 at 12:18
  • @GRam pillai Thank you , totally agree
    – Mohamed kz
    Apr 25, 2020 at 12:27
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    @Ram Pillar I'm happy that "I['ve] ripped/tore/torn my shirt on a nail." is perfectly idiomatic (at least in most of the UK) and would not be taken to imply a deliberate act sans context demanding that interpretation. I'd even say it's the most common way of saying this. Apr 25, 2020 at 13:45
  • @EdwinAshworth :)
    – Ram Pillai
    Apr 26, 2020 at 3:16

1 Answer 1


As a sentence standing alone, it would imply that the nail had attacked your shirt on its own.

You could use it as part of a longer narrative. There was a nail sticking out of the fence. When he pushed me, I fell against the fence and the nail ripped my shirt.

  • Thank you for the useful explanation.
    – Mohamed kz
    Apr 25, 2020 at 12:50
  • +1 "The nail ripped my shirt" smacks of blame-shifting in a way; in the end the effect is the same, but who- or what-ever actively does the verb is naturally seen as the perpetrator.
    – Conrado
    Apr 25, 2020 at 15:50

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