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    #1

    break down/up

    1. He was breaking down/up under the strain. Can both down and up be used? Any differences?

    2. Sentences can be broken up into clauses. (taken from OXFORD)
    Each lesson is broken down into several units. (taken from OXFORD)

    It seems to me that 'break down' here equals 'break up' in these sentences. How can we decide when to use one and when to use the other?

    Thank you in advance.

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    #2

    Re: break down/up

    To "break down" under stress is not the same as to break something into pieces.

    "break up" can be used to mean the relationship is coming to an end, causing the people to separate.

    "break up" can also mean to burst into laughter.

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    #3

    Re: break down/up

    I don’t see how “break down” and “break up” could mean the same thing, though “break down into” and “break up into” are synonymous.

    For your first sentence, only “break down” works.
    Simply, “break down” :”break up” could be analogized by "temporary": "permanent".



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    #4

    Re: break down/up

    Quote Originally Posted by joham View Post
    1. He was breaking down/up under the strain. Can both down and up be used? Any differences?

    2. Sentences can be broken up into clauses. (taken from OXFORD)
    Each lesson is broken down into several units. (taken from OXFORD)

    It seems to me that 'break down' here equals 'break up' in these sentences. How can we decide when to use one and when to use the other?

    Thank you in advance.
    I think in your first sentence only "break down" is correct.

    You are talking about different meanings of "break up" and "break down" which makes answering your question difficult.

    About your second and third sentences:
    "break up into" and "break down into" are similar to each other. I am tempted to say they are synonyms.
    Last edited by Khosro; 10-Mar-2011 at 13:01.

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    #5

    Re: break down/up

    OXFORD: break up
    5 (British English) to become very weakHe was breaking up under the strain.

    From the sentence above came my question. Could anyone further clarify my puzzle? Thank you all again.

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    #6

    Re: break down/up



    I now have a mental picture of this man breaking up under the strain - arms, legs and head all going their separate ways...

    I would have said he was breaking down, connecting this with the expression 'to have a nervous/mental/physical breakdown'. But if this is what a dictionary has told you, I'd better not argue.

    A car breaks down when the engine fails, but breaks up when it hits a wall at 100 mph.

    I would break a sentence down into its component parts, but would break up a large rock in order to be able to move it.

    If I found two children fighting I would tell them to break it up, (or maybe I'd just watch...) and when two boxers in the ring start hugging each other, the referee also tells them to break up.

    At the end of its life, a car goes to the breaker's yard to be broken up and a ship to the shipbreaker's for the same operation.

    This is quite interesting! I've not thought about it before, but it seems that henz988 may have come up with a valid theory - temporary vs permanent. It does seem to work, but I'm sure there will be exceptions.

    It's those awkward prepositions again, isn't it? They do make life so difficult, but we couldn't manage without the little darlings. You just have to learn their strange habits as you go along.

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    #7

    Re: break down/up

    LONGMAN:

    break down:
    2 to fail or stop working in a successful way:
    I left London when my marriage broke down.

    break up:
    5 if a marriage, group of people, or relationship breaks up, the people in it separate and do not live or work together any more: He lost his job and his marriage broke up.

    Can we say that 'my marriage broke down' roughly equals 'my marriage broke up' in the above contexts? Or is the 'up' closest to 'completely' in meaning?
    Thank you again.

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    #8

    Re: break down/up

    Quote Originally Posted by joham View Post
    break down:
    2 to fail or stop working in a successful way:
    I left London when my marriage broke down.

    break up:
    5 if a marriage, group of people, or relationship breaks up, the people in it separate and do not live or work together any more: He lost his job and his marriage broke up.

    Can we say that 'my marriage broke down' roughly equals 'my marriage broke up' in the above contexts?
    Roughly, yes. For me, and I stress that this is a personal view, 'break up' has more of a suggestion that the two people actually split up and, at some time, divorced.

    The main problem is that the two phrasal verbs can be near-synonyms in certain contexts and not in others. While dictionaries attempt to present generally accepted usage, they cannot possibly cover every example.

    Personal opinion creeps in. For example:

    henz988: I don’t see how “break down” and “break up” could mean the same thing,
    Sorry henz, but I feel that they could, in certain contexts.

    henz988: For your first sentence, only “break down” works.
    I disagree. I think 'break down' is what I would expect to see, but 'break up' is not impossible.

    henz988:Simply, “break down” :”break up” could be analogized by "temporary": "permanent".
    Perhaps, sometimes. I feel that it would be unsafe to take this as a general rule,

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    #9

    Re: break down/up

    I now have a mental picture of this man breaking up under the strain - arms, legs and head all going their separate ways...
    henz988: For your first sentence, only “break down” works.
    I disagree. I think 'break down' is what I would expect to see, but 'break up' is not impossible.
    Hi, fivejedion.
    What is the possibility here that “the strain” could get a person’s limbs separated (a picture mentally formed in my mind)? Maybe I misunderstood “break up”? Could you please spare a few more minutes on “not impossible” and give some examples? I know you mean extreme occasions, however, as an ESL, I am always interested in these things.

    Thank you.

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    #10

    Re: break down/up

    I don't have any problem with a person "breaking up under the strain". I agree that it's not as common as "breaking down" but I have heard it said, and after all it is suggesting the same sort of mental disintegration.

    not a teacher

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