As simple as the compound verbs “blow out” and “break down” may sound, they each have at least five different meanings. And “break up”? Six! To continue our series on phrasal or compound verbs, here’s some that begin with the letter B. Not only do they start with a hard consonant, but they’re also hard to leave out of any conversation. Mind if I butt in?
To weaken one’s stance
Example: Godzilla wanted to climb the Empire State Building but backed down when King Kong started pounding his chest.
To draw back from or avoid confrontation
Example: They backed off from their position of not compromising.
To move a vehicle in reverse
Example: Back it up!
To form a queue due to congestion
Example: The traffic backed up for two miles when the swan wouldn’t move out of the centre lane.
To inquire about what has happened to something or someone
Example: What became of the school’s jazz band?
To extinguish with the force of one’s breath
Example: She blew out the candles – all 50 of them – and proved that age doesn’t matter.
Example: Don’t drive over the glass or you’ll blow out the car’s tires.
To emit forcefully (specifically gas or oil)
Example: The oil well blew out two hours after the storm.
To damage, often physically
Example: He blew out his knee during the game.
To lose force
Example: The financial crisis finally blew itself out and the economy recovered.
To lose importance
Example: Their argument blew over after they shared the chocolate cake.
To show sorrow or lose control of one’s emotions
Example: She broke down at the memorial service.
To provide detail
Example: He broke down the project so management could make a decision.
To collapse (a relationship or process)
Example: Negotiations broke down after both parties made outrageous demands.
To cease functioning
Example: The car broke down – again!
To decompose chemically
Example: The waste breaks down into various sub-elements before being treated.
To initiate or train
Example: We walked for two hours to break in our new hiking boots.
To invade or burglarize
Example: They broke into a walk-in freezer to steal the turkeys.
“So, where are you going to put the ten-foot statue?” she broke in.
To end a meeting or a relationship
Example: They broke up and decided to go their separate ways.
To end a school term
The class broke up for the summer and will reconvene in September.
To disintegrate or disperse
Example: The clouds finally broke up, making way for a splendid afternoon.
To fall apart/become emotionally upset
Example: He broke up when he saw his wife in the hospital bed.
To laugh uncontrollably
She broke up when she caught her friend’s eye.
To be interrupted by interference
The signal kept breaking up as we climbed higher.
To invite a challenge
Example: He was so confident that he wanted them to bring on the next team.
To cause something, often an illness or unusual situation
Example: Dizziness is brought on by standing on one foot and closing your eyes.
And the bonus:
butt in/butt out
The first means to interrupt; the second means to stop interfering
Example: Excuse me if I butt in, but could we talk about the weather instead of politics?
Example: The officials should butt out of people’s personal lives and concentrate on policy.