Brake vs. Break: Stop Everything & Learn The Difference

people in office on break

Let’s hit the brakes and take a quick break to break down the difference between brake and break. We’ll answer all your questions, including:

  • Did we just use all of those words correctly?
  • What’s the difference between break and brake?
  • Is it break down or brake down?
  • Is it a break pedal or a brake pedal?

In this article, we’ll cover multiple meanings of these two words, including their most common uses as both verbs and nouns as well as their use in several common phrases.

Quick summary

The verb break is the one used in the context of something being broken or divided into pieces or fragments. It’s also commonly used to refer to a rest period, which is the sense used in the phrase take a break. The noun brake is the one that refers to the device used to slow down vehicles like cars (in which it’s called the brake pedal) and bikes. As a verb, it means to use a brake to slow down or stop.

break vs. brake

The word break has many, many different meanings as both a noun and a verb. As a verb, break commonly means “to become or cause to be broken” (as in Please don’t break that lamp) or “to become or cause to be divided into pieces or fragments” (as in I’ll break it into two pieces so you can each have one).

Break is an irregular verb: the past tense is broke and the past participle is broken. The continuous form is breaking.

As a noun, break can refer to an instance of something being broken (as in Luckily it was a clean break) or the spot at which it has been broken (as in You can see the break in the glass right there). It also commonly refers to a pause from working or exertion (as in It’s almost time for a break). It has many other meanings, including the ones used in expressions like Make a break for it! and This is your big break!

The word brake can also be used as a noun or a verb, but both usually relate to the same thing: slowing down or stopping a vehicle or a machine. The noun brake refers to the device that’s used to do this. In cars, this is sometimes called the brake pedal. In this sense, brake is often used in the plural, as in Hit the brakes! As a verb, brake most often means to slow or stop something using brakes, as in You should brake when you’re going down the hill.

The past tense and past participle of brake is braked and the continuous form is braking.

Looking for more? Review all the verb tenses here.

The word break is used in many different common phrases such as break down, break off, break up, break in, and break out (and related noun phrases like breakdown and outbreak). The word brake is often used in figurative expressions related to slowing down or stopping something, as in Let’s hit the brakes for a moment and think about this.

While break and brake aren’t commonly used in the same contexts, things could possibly get confusing when dealing with mechanical failures, such as when a vehicle’s brakes happen to … break.

Take a brake? Or break?

The commonly used phrase meaning “to take a pause from doing something” is take a break. This idiomatic expression uses the sense of break meaning “a brief rest.” This same sense is used in common phrases such as lunch break, coffee break, and snack break.

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breaking vs. braking

Breaking is the continuous form of all of the many different senses of the verb break, including both literal ones (as in I keep breaking dishes) and more figurative ones (as in They’re breaking the rules).

Braking is the continuous form of brake, as in You should be braking when you round the curves or Engineers are trained to start braking the train well before it reaches the station.

Examples of brake and break used in a sentence

Let’s break things down by looking at different examples of how we use break and brake in a sentence.

  • I used the hammer carefully so that I wouldn’t break the window.
  • The water was rushing in through the break in the wall.
  • He managed to brake the truck just in time.
  • The mechanic fixed a small flaw in the roller coaster’s brakes.
  • She didn’t intend to break the rules—she just needed to take a break. So let’s hit the brakes on any punishment.

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