Breath vs Breathe

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Unlike some cases in which only the correct spelling of the word in question is the issue, breath and breathe are both correctly spelled but are completely different words.

So, what is the difference and when do you use each word?


Breath (noun):
spell /brɛθ/

the air that is taken into and expelled out of the body through the lungs or gills

Breathe (verb):
spell /brið/

the act of moving air into and out of the body


The main difference between these two words is the part of speech they are. If you are using a noun, the correct form of the word to use is breath.

If you are using a verb, the correct form of the word to use is breathe.

This is especially important to pay attention to because any spell check will not catch it if you use them incorrectly!


Examples

I took a huge breath before I started to swim that lap around the pool.

Here, the noun form breath is correct because there is already another verb in the phrase.

The verb here is took, so the breath is taken, indicating that the example needs a noun.

I was so shocked that I forgot to breathe for a minute there.

The speaker of this sentence is describing something that she forgot to do – in other words, a verb.

Therefore, she needs the verb form of the word, breathe.

When I saw my favorite movie actor doing an interview on TV, my heart stopped and I realized that I was holding my breath.

For this example, the speaker is talking about holding his breath. The verb in the phrase is hold, and the object (the thing that he is holding) is his breath.

Because breath is a noun, this is the correct form of the work to use.

Amanda runs until she is out of breath.

Out of breath is a phrase that means the person is tired and panting, trying to get more oxygen in their lungs. This usually happens after intense exercise or physical activity of some sort.

It uses the noun form breath.

Max ran so much that he tired himself out, so he is sitting on the bench trying to catch his breath right now.

Catch his breath is a phrase that means the person is trying to rest and return to breathing normally after seeing something surprising, doing some exercise, being scared by something, etc.

It uses breath as a noun.

Save your breath. That is something that Kyle needs to worry about, not you.

Save your breath is an idiom that means you don’t have to keep talking about a topic.

“I can’t believe he just did that,” Lydia said under her breath.

Under her breath is a phrase that means muttering, or saying something quietly to oneself and / or the people immediately around you.

It uses the noun form breath.

The situation has been solved! You can breathe easy now, don’t worry.

Breathe easy is a phrase that means you can relax and no longer have to worry.

The verb form, breathe, is used here.

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