It's a common mistake to confuse the words breath and breathe with each other. Since there is only one letter setting them apart, many make the error of using the wrong one in writing. Once you learn the difference between the two, you can end the confusion and always know which one to use.
Defining Breath and Breathe
These two words are related, which is where much of the confusion comes from. Apart from that extra "e," the main differences between the words breath and breathe is how they are pronounced and used in a sentence.
The word "breath" is a noun. It is the act of breathing; the air that is inhaled and exhaled (although it can also be a slight breeze or indication). Breath is pronounced with a short e sound. It rhymes with the word "death."
The word "breathe" is a verb. It means to take a breath by inhaling and exhaling. (It can also mean to pause/rest or to say.) Breathe is pronounced with a long e sound. It rhymes with "seethe."
Using Breath and Breathe in a Sentence
Some examples of breath and breathe used in sentences are as follows:
- I took a deep breath and tried to relax before giving my speech.
- Thanks to rumors of an affair, a breath of scandal followed the actor.
- Even with the windows wide open, not a single breath of air came into the house.
- It was so cold outside I could see my breath.
- He was gasping for breath after running the race.
- Please wait until I catch my breath!
- Always brush your teeth well so you can prevent bad breath.
- I told her not to waste her breath on him since he was never going to change.
- Fish can breathe under water since they have gills.
- It can be difficult to breathe through your nose when you have a cold.
- She breathed a sigh of relief after the exam was over.
- Don't breathe a word of this to anyone!
- I felt like he was breathing down my neck and it bothered me.
- With this high altitude let's stop and take a minute to breathe.
- She made herself breathe deeply when she felt anxious.
- He was a devoted fan and lived and breathed football every day of his life.
Proper Usage Tips
The following are some simple tips to help you understand when to use breath and when to use breathe:
- Omit the "e" at the end of the word when you want to use a noun. Use breath to refer to a thing or action, e.g. catch my breath.
- Add the second letter "e" when you want to use a verb. Use breathe for showing the action, e.g. breathe in deeply.
- If you are referring to exhaling, use the word with the extra "e" at the end: breathe.
It might help to keep this simple phrase in mind: You need to take a breath in order to breathe.