Break Down - English Phrasal Verb Lessons

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In this lesson, let's learn about the meaning and use of the phrasal verb ‘break down'.


Ernesto: Let's discuss the phrasal verb ‘break down' today.

Nina: I know a bit about it. ‘Break down' means crying.

Ernesto: You're right. When one is unable to control his emotions he or she may break down in tears. However, ‘break down' can also mean a damage in a machine or a car when it stops working.

Nina: Funny you've mentioned it. My car broke down earlier today!

Ernesto: Ouch! Sorry about that, Nina. But ‘break down' also means to resolve something, ending a long dispute. For example: ‘Finally the case broke down when Henry agreed to compensate'.

Nina: Yes, ‘break down' means solving a task. This phrasal verb also means an in-depth analysis of something, breaking something else into parts.

Ernesto: Exactly! A complex problem may be solved by breaking it down to a number of smaller steps or parts.

Nina: Absolutely! It means to divide into smaller parts or to separate. But it also means to force someone to give up, to tell a secret or make make someone agree to do something.

Ernesto: Yeah! Like breaking up a terrorist group! That's breaking down something. Now, breaking down something also means to destroy or ruin it.

Nina: So many possibilities! We should listen to some conversations with examples now.

Ernesto: Great idea!

Crappy Car.

Candice: Ron, why don't you service your car?

Ron: I will do it in the evening.

Candice: It might break down any moment now.

Ron: Yeah, I know. My dad finally broke down and gave me some money to get it fixed.

Candice: Good for you!

Real Life Mathematics.

Candice: Ron, can you look at this math problem?

Ron: Hmmm...linear algebra. It's always better to break down such problems into smaller steps.

Candice: Wow! You've always been so good in solving problems!

Ron: I wish I could be so quick with real life problems too. They break me down all the time.

Candice: Don't worry, Ron. These family matters are just a temporary bother.

He Broke down the Dog House!

Ron: Why so gloomy today, Candice?

Candice: Nothing much, I had to lock horns with my brother.

Ron: What happened?

Candice: He broke down the dog house.

Ron: Then?

Candice: Then what? He ruined it, so I broke down crying.

Ron: Sorry to hear it!

Candice: That's fine. He promised to build a new one today.

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