Break vs. Brake: Stop and Choose the Correct Word

It's easy to get the words break and brake confused with one another when writing. These words are homophones, so they are pronounced the same (brāk). Both words can function as a noun or a verb, but they do not mean the same thing. It's very important to know when to use break vs. brake when you are writing. Otherwise, miscommunication is bound to occur.

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When to Use Brake: A Simple Decision

The word brake doesn't have many meanings, and they're all related to stopping or slowing down. When you're trying to decide between break vs. break, the first step is to ask yourself if you're talking about stopping or slowing down a piece of equipment, such as a vehicle.

  • If you are discussing slowing or stopping a vehicle, the answer to your query is to use the word brake.
  • If you're not, then you'll want to use the word break.

Brake as a Noun

When the word break is used as a noun, it is simply referring to a device that is designed to stop or slow the movement of a piece of equipment, usually a vehicle. The pedal on the floorboard of a car that is used to reduce the speed of a car and/or bring it to stop is a brake.

Brake as a Verb

When the word brake is used as a verb, it refers to the act of causing a piece of equipment to stop by using a brake (noun). If your car is approaching the hill, you need to brake (verb). You will do so by pressing the brake (noun).

When to Use Break: Multiple Meanings

The word break has many different meanings. The various meanings are not all related to each other. That's why it's ideal to first decide if brake is the right word when you are trying to choose between the two terms. If you're not trying to slow or stop a piece of equipment and you're sure you need to use break or brake, the answer will always be break.

Break as a Verb

Discover the many ways that the word break is commonly used in verb form.

  • to snap (a clean break in a bone)
  • to separate or fracture into pieces (to cause a dish to break by dropping it)
  • to cause an open wound (scratch your arm in a way that causes a break in the skin)
  • to rupture in a way that allows open flow (water can rise quickly due to a break in the dam)
  • to cause something to stop working (improper usage can cause an item to break)
  • to tame a wild animal (to break a horse)
  • to exceed a previously set high point (to break the club record for scoring)
  • to interrupt or stop something (to break up a fight)
  • to reduce an impact (landing on a pillow can help break a fall)
  • to solve something (to break a secret code)
  • to reveal something (to break the big news)
  • to violate something one would be expected to comply with (to break a law, vow or contract)
  • to forcibly enter into someone else's property, (such as to break-in to a locked office or home)
  • to escape confinement without permission and by force (such as to break out of prison)
  • to exchange large denominations of paper money into smaller ones (to break a $50 bill)
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Break as a Noun

While there aren't as many noun options for the word break, there are still quite a few.

  • time of rest (to take a coffee break)
  • planned interruption (a break in music on the radio for commercials to air)
  • an advantage or good luck (to catch a break)
  • the result of snapping, fracturing or separating (there is a break in the vase)
  • an opening, gap, pause, interruption, or rupture (a break in the action)
  • text spacing (leave a break between paragraphs)

Sample Sentences: Break vs. Brake Practice

Use these practice questions to test yourself or to create a break vs. brake worksheet if you're working with students. The answers are below, so don't peek ahead. Try on your own, then check to see how you did.

  1. It's time for my lunch ____________________ .
  2. What time will we ____________________ for the day?
  3. Don't drive with your foot on the ____________________.
  4. You need to lightly press the ____________________ in order to slow down.
  5. The doctor said that I'm lucky that I didn't ____________________ my ankle.
  6. I'll leave the door unlocked so you don't have to ____________________ in to the house.
  7. If you ____________________ your promise to me, I will never trust you again.
  8. I'm not sure how to ____________________ the news of my bad grade to my parents.
  9. If you press the ____________________ too hard, the car wil jolt when it comes to a stop.
  10. I hope I don't ____________________ my new drone the first time I fly it.

Check Your Break vs. Brake Skills

Now that you've tested your new knowledge with the practice items, take a look at the correctly completed sentences below to see how you did.

  1. It's time for my lunch break.
  2. What time will we break for the day?
  3. Don't drive with your foot on the brake.
  4. You need to lightly press the brake in order to slow down.
  5. The doctor said that I'm lucky that I didn't break my ankle.
  6. I'll leave the door unlocked so you don't have to break in to the house.
  7. If you break your promise to me, I will never trust you again.
  8. I'm not sure how to break the news of my bad grade to my parents.
  9. If you press the brake too hard, the car will jolt when it comes to a stop.
  10. I hope I don't break my new drone the first time I fly it.
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Move Forward With a Memory Tip

Since it's much more simple to decide whether brake is the right word, always start your decision with that term. Remember that "a" is the letter that starts the alphabet, so the word where "a" appears first is the one you should start with. Think about whether you're talking about a mechanical brake (noun) or the action of applying one (verb). If not, move forward to the next word — break. You're sure to make the right choice every time!

Clear Up More Confusing Words

Now that you've cleared up the confusion between brake vs. break, take the time to master some other troublesome word pairs. Review these commonly confused words for clarification so you'll be ready the next time you have to choose. Reinforce your new knowledge with these printable worksheets focused on often-confused terms. Then explore other confusing word pairs like stationary vs. stationery. You'll be prepared and ready for the next language conundrum that comes your way!