Breath and Breathe




What is the difference between breath and breathe?

A breath (which rhymes with death) is the air inhaled or exhaled during breathing.

To breathe (rhymes with seethe) means to inhale and expel air from the lungs.

Breath and Breathe

Writers occasionally confuse the words breath and breathe.

Breath

The word breath is a noun that denotes the air either inhaled or exhaled during breathing. Colloquially, it can also mean a short pause (e.g., Take a breath and try again.)

Of note, breath rhymes with death.

Examples:
  • Paul pinched his nose, took a breath and jumped off the boat.
  • He would fight until his last breath.

Breathe

The word breathe (which rhymes with seethe) is a verb with the following closely related meanings:

To inhale and expel air from the lungs.
  • Virtually all fish breathe through gills.
  • Is she breathing?
  • (Note: Breathe drops the e when ing is added.)
To allow gas or moisture to pass through.
  • The new synthetic material can breathe to prevent moisture building up against the skin.
To impart (often used figuratively).
  • He breathed new life into the project.
  • He breathed a sigh of relief.
Select the correct version:

 



A Trick to Spot Breathe

Native English speakers only tend to confuse breath and breathe in writing. Therefore, if you use the e on the end of breathe to remind you that the ea is pronounced EE (i.e., breathe rhymes with seethe), then you will eliminate this error.






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