Common English phrasal verbs | Break Down

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If a vehicle or machine breaks down it stops working.

Examples of use:

  • a) Our car broke down on the way to the airport and we missed our flight.
  • b) My washing machine has broken down.
  • c) Sorry I’m late. The train broke down.

If you break down you are unable to control your feelings and you start to cry.

Examples of use:

  • a) She broke down when she heard the sad news.
  • b) He misses his mother very much, and he often breaks down when he talks about her.
  • c) When we gave him the bad news, he broke down and cried.

To break down is also to become mentally or physically ill because of difficult or traumatic experiences.

Examples of use:

  • a) Not long after her husband died she broke down and had to take some time off work.
  • b) She had a nervous breakdown after her son was kidnapped.
  • c) He had a breakdown last year but he’s much better now.

If a meeting, discussion or an agreement (including a relationship or marriage) breaks down it fails or stops working properly.

Examples of use:

  • a) The talks between the political parties have broken down.
  • b) Our marriage has broken down and we are getting a divorce.

Break down – stop working

Oh, I nearly forgot, on the way home the taxi broke down. Can you believe my luck? Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long for the breakdown recovery vehicle to arrive but I was still worried; I don’t have any luck with mechanical things. Before I went on holiday my car, my computer and my printer all broke down.

Verb expenses:

infinitive : break down
present simple : break down and breaks down
-ing form : breaking down
past simple : broke down
past participle : broken down

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