As examples like chocolate, vacations, and friends can prove, there is no such thing as too much of a good thing* and we are here to tell you that phrasal verbs are no different. Just take these examples – all of which use the base verb “break” – if you don’t believe us!
Break … Off – to end something (typically in a dramatic or sudden way)
- James was in the middle of a call with his girlfriend when, without warning, the connection broke off completely.
Note: Although the above example may not sound so serious, it is quite common to use “break off” to describe the conclusions of friendships, relationships, or engagements.
Break … Off – to take a smaller piece off a larger chunk
- Although Jill and Sandy each bought different candy bars, each broke off a piece so that the other the other could try some.
Note: Context, no grammar, will help you determine which of the two versions of “break off” is being used in a given situation.
Break out / – appear in a sudden or unexpected way
- With resentment against the government at all-time highs many observers were concerned that violence could break out at any moment.
Note: It is this meaning of break out that explains why people sometime refer to a bad case of acne as a “breakout”.
Break Out Of / – to escape
- The dog was a real escape artist – she could always find a way to break out of any place her owners tried to leave her!
Note: This phrasal verb should not be confused with the two word “break out” which, though less common, means to use something special (as in champagne in a celebration).
* In fact, if you are interested in seeing our complete overview of phrasal verbs you can see it here.