Third Wednesday: Don’t Break the Brake

I’m not sure why, but in the past few weeks I’ve seen these words interchanged, not only in books, but in magazines, and online.


“Mary and Catherine had to bond together to put the breaks on Henry’s machinations.”

“Kara released the break before applying gentle pressure to the accelerator.”

“If you can’t put the breaks on the train you’ve got barreling down the tracks, three hundred passengers are going to die today.”


Break – to cause to come apart by force.

It’s already time to break ground for a vegetable garden.

Harriet was astonished at how swiftly her toddler managed to break the new vase.


Brake – to operate a brake or pair of brakes.  To be slowed down or stopped by a brake.

If the brake pads wear down, it’s dangerous to continue driving your car.

Many trucks brake for railroad crossings.


Here’s another look at Break and Brake.


Never slam on the break when driving on ice.

It’s easier to brake a heart than you realize.


Hank decided to break the small branches from the larger trunk before using his saw.

I’ve seen a line of cars brake to allow a mama and her baby ducklings to cross the road.

If you’re breaking the speed limit, you may not have time for brake for a pedestrian.


Perhaps the recent upsurge in misuse of these words stems from errors in the proofing process.  It’s worth making one final check to save yourself from receiving reader’s letters and emails that call your attention to easy-to-prevent mistakes.