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To break something is to change it, usually in a way that is undesireable or destructive.

simple past past participle
  • The waiter broke a bottle of wine.
  • The bottle is broken. (In this sentence, "broken" is an adjective.)
broken bottle
  • A ball went through the window and broke it.
  • Broken glass was everywhere.
  • He’s breaking his guitar. (Sometimes the act of breaking something is intentional.)
  • Edward’s girlfriend broke up with him. (She ended their relationship.)
  • He has a broken heart. (The word "broken" is an adjective in this sentence.)
  • Bernardo is just about to break. He can’t take the stress of his position at work.

In some cases, it’s necessary to break something or change it so that it is more useful:

  • In order to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs.
  • When using a large bill such as a 100-dollar bill, some stores might not have enough money on hand to break it. (break = provide smaller denominations of money)

  • At the beginning of a game of pool or billiards, a player breaks by hitting a racked set of balls with a cue ball.

If someone enters your house illegally, he or she breaks in.

  • Todd was caught breaking into someone’s house.
  • Breaking and entering is a serious crime.
  • After he was arrested, tried, convicted, and given a ten year-sentence, he broke out of prison.

In these sentences, "break" is an adjective.

  • In breaking news, a cease-fire was announced by both sides.
  • Leonard is broke. (broke = no money)
  • Break dancing is a form of dance that originated in urban areas in the United States.
  • Cynthia has a broken arm. (The bone in her arm broke.)
  • Employees of the company can but food in the break room. (break room = a place for taking a break)

As a noun, the word "break" has many different meanings:

  • I need to take a break. (I need to rest.)
  • Our class took a ten-minute break.
  • Many college students spend their spring break in Florida. (spring break = a one-week break from college, particularly popular among wealthy kids who have money to travel)
  • Bill is finally going to get his big break as an actor. (break = opportunity)
  • There’s going to be a break in the weather next week. (break – a change)
  • A sudden break out of measles forced the cancellation of classes. (break out = the appearance of disease)
  • During the prison break, three inmates escaped.

There are many idioms and expressions that use the word "break."

  • I’m sorry, I have to break some bad news to you. (break bad news = tell bad news)
  • This discovery breaks new ground in the area of cancer research. (break ground = discover something new)
  • Your cell phone is breaking up. (The wireless connection is bad.)
  • Okay, break it up! (Stop fighting.)
  • The sun is just starting to break through the clouds. (break through = show through)
  • The police had to break up a fight.

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February 2, 2015



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