Brake and Break

Commonly Confused Words

The words brake and break are homophones: they sound the same but have different meanings.

As a noun, brake most commonly refers to a device for slowing down or stopping the movement of a vehicle or machine. The verb brake means to slow down or stop with a brake.

As a noun, break has many meanings, including a fracture, an interruption, a pause, a sudden move, an escape, and an opportunity. The irregular verb break also has many meanings.

The most common ones include to split or cut open, to make unusable, to disrupt or get rid of, and to interrupt.

Examples:

  • Gus released the parking brake, threw the car into drive, and pulled away without once looking back.
  • The bumper sticker on Sadie's pickup truck said, "I brake for people who give me a break."
  • The climbers spent three days in their tents, waiting for a break in the weather.
  • Even a good friend may break a promise.
  • It's easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.

Practice:

(a) The mechanic replaced the _____ linings and pads on my van.

(b) People shouldn't _____ the law whenever they feel unjustly treated.

(c) A week after Dillinger's prison _____, his gang robbed the First National Bank of St. Mary's, Ohio.

(d) If you _____ something in this shop, you have to pay for it.

 

Answers to Practice Exercises

 

Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

200 Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs​

Answers to Practice Exercises: Brake and Break

(a) The mechanic replaced the brake linings and pads on my van.

(b) People shouldn't break the law whenever they feel unjustly treated.

(c) A week after Dillinger's prison break, he and his gang robbed the First National Bank of St. Mary's, Ohio.

(d) If you break something in this shop, you have to pay for it.

Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words