Breath vs. Breathe: Useful Differences between Breathe vs. Breath

Do we need to breath or to breathe in order to live? And when it’s a very cold day and you exhale, is it your breath that you see or your breathe? There are many words in the English language that differ by one letter only but this one letter turns a noun to a verb. Breath and breathe are just one example, and no wonder why these words are confused so often.

Breath vs. Breathe: What’s the Difference?

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Key Takeaways

BREATHE is a verb that means the process of inhaling and exhaling, and BREATH is a noun that describes the full circle of breathing, but also the air that is inhaled or exhaled. The good news is, the meanings of these two words are closely linked together, So, the only thing you need to be careful of is whether you need a noun or a verb.

Definitions

‘Breath’ as a Noun

“Breath” is a noun representing the air inhaled and exhaled during breathing. In sentences, it can serve as the subject or object, conveying the concept of respiration or a single cycle of breathing. For example:

  • He took a deep breath before diving into the pool.
  • Her breath was visible in the cold air.

‘Breathe’ as a Verb

“Breathe” functions as a verb and refers to the action of taking air into the lungs and then expelling it. It illustrates the physical process performed by living organisms to sustain life and can be used in various tenses. Here are examples:

  • They need fresh air to breathe properly.
  • She breathes deeply to relax her nerves.

 Correct Usage Breathe vs. Breath

If you’re doing yoga, you know that there are poses that you need to hold for a certain number of breaths. Or, if you’re telling someone to rest for a second, you can tell them to take a breath. In both of these sentences, you need a noun, so you should choose a shorter word.

Someone who has asthma struggles to breathe properly. In order to have the best results when doing sports, you need to let your athletic clothes breathe. These are examples of when you need a verb, so you should extend the noun by adding an in the end.

Tricks to Learn the Difference

When distinguishing between breath and breathe, one can employ simple tips to ensure correct usage in writing and speech.

Pronunciation:

  • Breath: Ends in a short “e” sound, pronounced like “Beth”.
  • Breathe: Contains a longer “ee” sound, akin to “seethe”.

Part of Speech:

  • Breath: A noun representing the air inhaled or exhaled.
  • Breathe: A verb meaning to draw air into and expel it from the lungs.

Spelling Cue: Use the presence of the additional “e” at the end of breathe to recall that it is an action verb, extending the word just as one extends the act of breathing.

Mnemonic Device: Remember the phrase, “When you take a breath, it’s short-lived, just like the shorter word.” Conversely, “When you breathe in and out, it’s a longer process, hence the longer word with an ‘e’ at the end.”

Breath vs. Breathe Examples

Examples of “Breathe” 

  1. It’s important to breathe deeply to calm your nerves.
  2. She had to breathe through her mouth because her nose was blocked.
  3. The doctor told him to relax and breathe slowly during the examination.
  4. We can’t breathe underwater without the help of scuba gear.
  5. The meditation instructor taught the class how to breathe properly.

Examples of “Breath

  1. He took a deep breath before diving into the pool.
  2. You could see her breath in the cold winter air.
  3. The scent of flowers was a breath of fresh air.
  4. Hold your breath while I take a quick photo.
  5. After the sprint, he was out of breath and needed to rest.

Breath vs. Breathe Exercises

Determine if the usage of “breath” or “breathe” is correct.

  1. Remember to breathe deeply before you start singing. (True/False)
  2. She took a deep breath before diving into the pool. (True/False)
  3. If you don’t breath, you’ll pass out. (True/False)
  4. You can see your breath in the cold winter air. (True/False)
  5. He has asthma and sometimes struggles to breathe. (True/False)
  6. The doctor said to take a breath in and hold it. (True/False)
  7. I can’t breath when I think about how excited I am. (True/False)
  8. The fresh mountain air is a nice change of breath. (True/False)
  9. When you get anxious, just focus on your breathe. (True/False)
  10. The scent of flowers made her breath in deeply. (True/False)

Answers

  1. True
  2. True
  3. False (Correct usage: “breathe”)
  4. True
  5. True
  6. True
  7. False (Correct usage: “breathe”)
  8. False (Correct usage: “breath”)
  9. False (Correct usage: “breath”)
  10. False (Correct usage: “breathe”)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between ‘breath’ and ‘breathe’?

Breath (pronounced “breth”) is a noun that signifies the air inhaled or exhaled during respiration. For example: “She took a deep breath before diving into the pool.”

Breathe (pronounced “breeth”) is a verb and refers to the action of inhaling and exhaling. For example: “He needs to breathe slowly during the meditation exercises.”

How can one easily remember which word to use?

An easy tip to remember is that breathe, which is an action word and a verb, has an extra ‘e’ at the end just like verb. Both verbs and ‘breathe’ end in ‘e’.

Can these words be used interchangeably?

No, they cannot. They have distinct grammatical functions and using one in place of the other would be incorrect.

Are there any common phrases that use ‘breath’ or ‘breathe’?

Yes, common phrases include:

  • For ‘breath’:
    • “to catch one’s breath”
    • “a breath of fresh air”
  • For ‘breathe’:
    • “to breathe a sigh of relief”
    • “breathe new life into something”

Is there a difference in pronunciation between these two words?

Yes, ‘breath’ has a shorter vowel sound, and the ‘th’ is unvoiced. In contrast, ‘breathe’ has a longer ‘ee’ vowel sound, and the ‘th’ is voiced.

 

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