break vs. brake

What is the difference between break and brake?

The word break has a huge variety of meanings, but its most common usage is as a verb meaning “to divide or cause to separate (something) into pieces, especially suddenly or violently” or “to cause to no longer function correctly or at all.” For example:
  • “Please be careful not to break that mirror!”
  • “The cell phone company said they would replace my phone if I break it.”
Another common use of the word break is as a noun meaning “a pause or interval from some activity, especially work,” as in:
  • “I’m going for a coffee break if anyone wants to come with me.”
The word brake is pronounced the same way (/breɪk/), but it has a much narrower definition in everyday speech and writing. As a noun, it means “something that slows or stops movement or action,” and it can function as a verb to mean “to cause to slow or stop,” as in:
  • “Use the brakes! You’re going too fast!”
  • “Be sure you have enough time to brake before you come to the intersection.”
  • “I think we need to put the brakes on this project for a little while.”
If you are talking about something being separated into pieces, interrupted, or not working any more, then use the spelling break; if you are talking about slowing something down, then brake is the correct spelling.
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