Expressions used in Everyday Spoken English in Social and Professional contexts

break down

break down
1) to become emotional or start crying
  • How to MemorizePopularity LowProfessional HighSocial
    • broke down in tears
  • Analysis
    The phrasal verb 'break down' can mean a mechanical or technical failure, such as that of a vehicle, or to say that something or somebody is not functioning normally. If a car breaks down, it literally stops working. In a figurative sense, that meaning can also be used to refer to the failure of a plan, relationship, negotiation, or even the human body. If that has stopped functioning as it should or is in bad condition, you can say that it has 'broken down.' The same can be said if your mental health is affected by something negative, like stress or sadness. In that case, you can also say that you have 'had a breakdown'. Similarly, to 'break down in tears' is to be overcome by emotion so that you lose control. This phrasal verb can also be used in reference to separating something into different or smaller parts. You can 'break down' something by explaining it step-by-step, analyzing it, or arranging it into different categories. Similarly, if the structure of something separates or decomposes, you can say that it 'breaks down.'
  • Social Examples (Basic)
    1. I had worked so hard. So when I was awarded the prize, I just broke down and started crying.
    2. The student broke down when she was accepted into the prestigious university.
  • Professional Examples (Basic)
    1. It was clearly revealed in the meeting that relations between the marketing and sales department have completely broken down.
    2. The analytics are quite detailed so I have broken down the most interesting results and illustrated them in this pie chart.
  • Further Suggestions
2) cease to function or operate properly
  • How to MemorizePopularity HighProfessional MediumSocial
    • the car/bus/train broke down
  • Analysis
    If an object 'breaks down' it stops working or develops a fault. This is used often with vehicles or machinery but can also be figurative such as a 'break down in talks' or a 'break down in a relationship'. Used in professional and social contexts.
  • Social Examples (Advance)
    1. Our bus broke down on the way to school. We were so late!
    2. I have to get the bus to work. My car has broken down!
  • Professional Examples (Basic)
    1. The printer has just broken down! There's no way I'll get my report to my Supervisor on time!
    2. A machine in the processing plan has broken down setting us back two days.
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