Should I Fix It or Repair It?

30 April 2021

This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a request from Quang in Vietnam, who says:


It would be a big help if you could teach me the difference between "fix" and "repair." Thank you so much.


Hello Quang,

My cell phone was not working yesterday. I tried to fix it but I was unable to. So, I took it to a shop to have it repaired.

The words "fix" and "repair" can be verbs or nouns. Today, I will focus mainly on the verbs. Both verbs mean to put something that is broken or damaged back into good condition. Often, we use "fix" and "repair" interchangeably, which means either word can be used.

But the verb "fix" is much more common in everyday speech. Generally, we use "repair" when we want to sound more formal. We can also use "repair" when someone with expertise is doing the work.

For example, you can take your clothing, phone, computer, car or musical instrument to a shop to have it repaired. Or a person might come to your home to repair your air conditioner, refrigerator or something else. In each of these cases, the person doing the work is an expert at it.

However, even when we are talking about such repairs, we may still use the word "fix." For example, you can say, "The tailor fixed the zipper on my jeans" or "The repairman is fixing the refrigerator."

In other words, you can almost always use "fix," except in some cases.

Notice that I used the word "repairman." The word "repair" appears in some job titles, such as repairman, repairwoman, repairperson and repair technician. We would not say "fixperson," for example. In addition, the word "repair" appears in the names of many shops that do such work.

One last thing to know: The verbs "fix" and "repair" can have other meanings. For example, when someone says they are fixing food or drink, it means they are preparing it.

And that's Ask a Teacher for this week.

I'm Alice Bryant.

Alice Bryant wrote this lesson for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

Do you have a question for the teacher? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section below.


Words in This Story

focus – v. a subject that is being discussed or studied

formal – adj. suitable for serious or official speech and writing

tailor – n. a person whose job is making, repairing, or altering clothing

zipper – n. a device on clothing and bags that is made of two rows of metal or plastic teeth and another piece that slides over the teeth to make them fit together

title – n. a word or name that describes a person's job in a company or organization