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    #1

    smash and shatter

    Dear teachers,
    I am confused by the two words smash and shatter. According to my dictionary:
    1. smash: to cause something to break noisily into a lot of small pieces
    She dropped her cup and watched it smash to pieces/to smithereens on the stone floor.
    2. shatter: to (cause something to) break suddenly into very small pieces:
    The glass shattered into a thousand tiny pieces.

    To me there is no difference between the two.

    Could you please kindly explain the difference between the two.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Thank you in advance.

    Jiang


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,409
    #2

    Re: smash and shatter

    'smash' emphasizes the violence, the force, that caused the object to break up.
    'shatter' concentrates on the 'breaking' without any reference to the 'force' which caused the damage.
    So - I can throw something against a wall and it will smash into it. It may or may not break (though we anticipate some damage). If it does break, then we add something like, '...and broke into pieces.'
    I could write, "He smashed his fist into the window, and the pane of glass shattered."

    Two cars can smash into each other. There obviously will be damage, and bits of the car all over the road, but 'smash' emphasizes the violence of the impact.

    A soprano or a tenor can sing a particular note which resonates with a wine glass that causes the glass to shatter. Apart from the sound (the frequency) of the note sung, there is no obvious violence or force applied to the object.

    In your sentence:
    She dropped her cup and watched it smash to pieces/to smithereens on the stone floor.
    The author, for some reason in this context, seems to want to heighten the dramatic tone, and so emphasizes the force of the impact with the floor.
    Otherwise, 'shatter' would be the more appropriate word.
    Last edited by David L.; 16-Sep-2008 at 06:34.

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    #3

    Re: smash and shatter

    Dear David,

    Thank you very much for your explanation. You say "we add something like '...and broke into pieces' ". Can I say "....and shattered into pieces"? In other words can I say "bread into pieces" and "shatter" bear the same meaning?

    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Thank you in advance.

    Jiang
    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    'smash' emphasizes the violence, the force, that caused the object to break up.
    'shatter' concentrates on the 'breaking' without any reference to the 'force' which caused the damage.
    So - I can throw something against a wall and it will smash into it. It may or may not break (though we anticipate some damage). If it does break, then we add something like, '...and broke into pieces.'
    I could write, "He smashed his fist into the window, and the pane of glass shattered."

    Two cars can smash into each other. There obviously will be damage, and bits of the car all over the road, but 'smash' emphasizes the violence of the impact.

    A soprano or a tenor can sing a particular note which resonates with a wine glass that causes the glass to shatter. Apart from the sound (the frequency) of the note sung, there is no obvious violence or force applied to the object.

    In your sentence:
    She dropped her cup and watched it smash to pieces/to smithereens on the stone floor.
    The author, for some reason in this context, seems to want to heighten the dramatic tone, and so emphasizes the force of the impact with the floor.
    Otherwise, 'shatter' would be the more appropriate word.


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,409
    #4

    Re: smash and shatter

    Yes. If I write, "It shattered.", that means that it broke into pieces, so to write "It shattered into pieces." is redundant. It is better to qualify it by using hyperbole, as in, "It shattered into a million pieces."

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