Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

brake and break - the difference

The Quick Answer
A brake is a device for slowing a moving vehicle. To brake is the verb.
(Note: It's quite rare, but brake is also the word for a four-wheeled horse carriage and also a machine for crushing hemp.)

Break most commonly means a period of rest or an interruption of continuity. (More below)

Brake and Break

The words break and brake sound identical, but their meanings are quite different.

Brake

The word brake has several meanings:

A device for slowing a moving vehicle (typically by adding friction to the wheels).
  • You do know that the brake is the pedal in the middle, don't you?
  • Please apply the handbrake.
In this meaning, brake is a noun.

Of course, there is also the associated verb:
  • Yes, very clever. It's time to brake now. Errr, now!
An open horse-drawn carriage with four wheels.



A toothed instrument used for crushing flax and hemp.



Break

The word break has many meanings:

To separate into pieces (as a result of a block, shock, or pressure).
  • Shatterproof ruler? I managed to break it before I'd left the shop!
  • If God lived on earth, people would break his
    windows. (Jewish Proverb)
It can also be used figuratively:
  • That would break my heart.
  • Adversity causes some men to break — others to break records.(William Arthur Ward)
In this meaning, break is a verb. It is like to crack, to smash, or to shatter.

There is also the associated noun:
  • I can see the break on the x-ray.
  • (This is like the meaning below, i.e., an interruption of continuity.)
A period of rest or an interruption of continuity.
  • I need to take a break.
  • (a period of rest)
  • There is a break in the pattern.
  • (an interruption of continuity)
In this meaning, break is a noun. It is like interval, pause, or gap.
To infringe or disobey.
  • Please do not break my trust in you.
  • It is much easier to break the rules when one's surrounded by strangers. One does not know any of them, so one cannot really care for their opinion. (Monica Fairview)
  • Men keep agreements when it is to the advantage of neither to break them. (Solon, 638 BC-559 BC)
In this meaning, break is a verb.

Interactive Test
 
 
Top Tip

How to Remember Brake

Some vehicles slow down by jamming a spike in the ground. The spike rakes the ground causing vehicle to decelerate. Let the rake in brake remind you that brake is used for slowing a vehicle.

How to Remember Break

Let the re in break remind you of the word rest.