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  • Writer's pictureDavid Nagai

Ways to Use "Break"

Updated: May 21, 2021

"I hit my breaking point after my nervous breakdown when my computer broke down during the coronavirus outbreak."

As you can see, there are so many ways to use the word "break!" Usually they all have some sort of association with a sudden change that is often negative, but sometimes positive.

Here are several explanations and examples...

Break up

To end a relationship The couple broke up after two years of dating. What a shame. The three business partners broke up do to contradictory goals.

To intervene in/stop a fight The teacher broke up the fight between Jon and Daren.

When the sound quality/reception on the phone is poor and might disconnect I can’t hear you very well. I think we’re breaking up. I’ll call you again later.

To divide people or things into smaller pieces or sections Let’s break up into five groups for the game. I broke up the bricks into small pieces.

Break down / breakdown

When a ca, machine, or system stops working My car broke down two hours away from home.

Our communication broke down so we didn't finish the project.

To have an emotional crisis He had a mental breakdown after he lost his job.

To start crying or becoming very emotional She broke down crying when she saw her test results.

To simplify something that is complex Let me break down the concept into for main parts.

To divide something into separate parts I need to check the breakdown of the accounts to see if we have more money in our budget.

To destroy or break something so that it falls over If there’s a fire, I’ll break down the door to escape.


To make a big and important discovery or realization after trying hard for a long time Einstein experienced many failures before his big breakthrough that changed science forever.

To succeed after trying for a long time After acting in Hollywood for 11 years, she finally got her big break in 2014 and started becoming more famous.

Break out

When something (usually negative) happens suddenly Fighting broke out after the president’s remarks. A fire broke out after the earthquake.

When something undesirable suddenly appears on your skin I broke out with a heat rash during my trip to Okinawa.

To escape She broke out of prison when the guards were sleeping.


When a virus or health condition suddenly spreads There was an outbreak of coronavirus that killed hundreds of people.

Break off

To end a relationship I broke things off with Kate because she expected too much from me.

To separate something She broke off a chunk of the cookie and gave it to me.

Break open

To force something open We broke open the coconut on a rock.

Break in

To start using something so that it becomes more comfortable, fitted, or familiar My new sandals were awkward at first, but once I broke them in they were amazingly comfortable!

To illegally enter a certain place I heard the thief broke in through the window. Didn’t you lock it?

Break into

To successfully start working in a new field/area After my first business failed, I somehow managed to break into the advertising industry.

To illegally or forcefully enter into a certain place The thief broke into the house last night.

To start doing something She broke into song because she was so happy. He broke into a sweat when he started his English presentation. The audience broke into laughter after the joke.

Other ways to use break

Breaking point - the point at which something is too difficult that one can no longer tolerate it and gives up or has a breakdown After working 70 hours last week I hit my breaking point and quit my job.

Break someone's heart - to end a romantic relationship and thus causing the other person extreme pain

You broke my heart!

Break the ice - the first social interaction that helps people feel more comfortable

After we broke the ice everyone felt more relaxed.

Break a promise - to fail to follow through with a commitment I broke my promise to my son by not buying him a new bike. I just didn’t have the money.

Break even - when you invest in something and you earn your money back but do not make a profit We barely broke even last month, but it could have been worse!

To be broke - To have no money/be poor She lost her job and house. Now she’s broke.

Break a habit - to stop doing something negative that you do regularly He loved gambling and couldn't break the habit.

Lucky break - lucky success or opportunity After acting in Hollywood for 11 years, she finally got her break in 2014 and started becoming more famous.

Break a leg! - (Idiom... what you say to someone performing on stage before the performance for good luck)

If you read all that and made it to the end, you deserve a break!


Want to connect with the changing world in English?

online or in Yokohama-Motomachi

to expand your:

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cross-cultural communication

(Advanced and intermediate only)

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