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?







back down

To weaken one’s stance

Example: Godzilla wanted to climb the Empire State Building but backed down when King Kong started pounding his chest.


back off

To draw back from or avoid confrontation

Example: They backed off from their position of not compromising.


back up

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.


become of

To inquire about what has happened to something or someone

Example: What became of the school’s jazz band?


blow out

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.


To puncture

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.


blow over

To lose importance

Example: Their argument blew over after they shared the chocolate cake.


break down

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.


break in

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.


To interject

“So, where are you going to put the ten-foot statue?” she broke in.


break up

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.


bring on

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.



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