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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Jun 7th, 2009, 12:41 am
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Question Break off/Break up

Hello

Are these phrasal verbs synonyms when you talk about a relationship?

E.g.

A) I broke off with my boyfriend when I found out he was cheating on me.

B) I broke up with my boyfriend...

Please correct my mistakes.


Thank you in advance!
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  #2 (permalink)  
Unread Jun 7th, 2009, 03:09 am
Sue
 
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Default Re: Break off/Break up

I'd probably go for "broke up" myself, but as always it may just be a UK/US difference. "Broke off" doesn't "sound wrong" and I don't think I'd even notice if someone said it. I'd use "break off" if you inserted "relationship" or "engagement" though : She broke off her relationship/engagement with John.
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  #3 (permalink)  
Unread Jun 7th, 2009, 11:53 am
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Default Re: Break off/Break up

Hi!
In my opinion, they are not synonyms.

Break sth off: to stop a relationship (relations/an engagement)

Break up:(marriage/ organization) If a marriage, group of people, or organization breaks up, the people in it separate and don't live or work together any more.

Split up and break up are synonyms because they both refer to marriage.
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  #4 (permalink)  
Unread Jun 7th, 2009, 12:42 pm
Sue
 
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Default Re: Break off/Break up

Yes and no I think. Ordeal - you're describing the intransitive phrasal verb break up and the transitive phrasal verb break off. The fact that one is transitive and the other intransitive already means they can't be synonyms :

The marriage broke up because he cheated on her.
She broke off the marriage because he cheated on her.


You can't swap the verbs in the sentences around because of the grammatical difference.

But Ana Laura didn't ask about these. She wanted to know about the (transitive) phrasal prepositional verbs break up/off with, which are different again.

Here are some examples of "break up with" the Cobuild concordancer found. All but the last clearly relates to a love relationship of some sort :

A man who tells you the details of breaking up with his lover is either in distress or ...
...Heighes, said he began the thefts after breaking up with his girlfriend, which had led...
Since breaking up with Richard she has lived with David
...or some rejection or humiliation, such as breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend,
If she then breaks up with him because he doesn't seem to be ...
Kate eventually broke up with her married lover because he had no
Anyhow, I came back home, and I broke up with my girlfriend and Grant had just had ...
After Jason Epstein broke up with his longtime girlfriend, Cheryl ...
...but only when she breaks up with her other group because all the girls


and for "break off with" :

After 27-year-old Lee-Ann, a social worker, broke off with her boyfriend of five years
Mozart had married Konstanze Weber, Leopold broke off with him almost completely and refused to
... eventually I broke off with everybody by changing my phone
... rid of his stash, threw out his paraphernalia, broke off with other users, and even moved out


Here, the frequency is reversed. The first example shows that break off with can be used for a love relationship, but the majority of examples refer to other, non-love relationships.

So : break up with and break off with are used as synonyms, and can both be used for love and non-love relationships. But ...
- to describe a love relationships, break up with is more frequent
- to describe a non-love relationship, break off with is more frequent

Going back to Ordeal's intransitive examples I'm afraid that split up and break up aren't synonyms. It's people who split up, but a relationship which breaks up. Compare :

John and Helen split up after twenty years together.
Their marriage broke up after twenty years.


You can't swap the verbs in those sentences.

But, if you look at the transitive phrasal prepositional verb split up with, then yes, it can be a synonym for break up/off with . More examples from the concordancer :

... the playwright's mind returned when he split up with his long-term partner
...this chapter of his life was closed. He had split up with Karen and moved home,
... and Spender had split up with his wife.
a healthy attachment to a new partner You can't split up with someone ....
...I was in a similar position, having just split up with my long-term girlfriend.


Interestingly, all the examples of split up with I found referred to love relationships.

Hope that clarifies.
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  #5 (permalink)  
Unread Jun 7th, 2009, 05:05 pm
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Smile Re: Break off/Break up

Ana Laura,

I just tried to help. I'm sorry if I didn't get what you wanted.
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  #6 (permalink)  
Unread Jun 7th, 2009, 05:24 pm
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Default Re: Break off/Break up

Yes, that was very helpful. Thank you for your answers!

But there is something I still would like to know...

Does 'break off' imply that one person decides to leave the other whereas 'break up' means both parts reach an agreement?

I appreciate your help.
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  #7 (permalink)  
Unread Jun 8th, 2009, 01:49 am
Sue
 
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Default Re: Break off/Break up

Hmm ... again yes and no. If you said to me Helen broke off with John, yes I would assume that it was Helen's decision. But if you said Helen broke/split up with John, I don't think I'd assume it was a mutual decision. Rather that the expression doesn't actually explain whose decision it was - it leaves it open. If you've said it in that order, then there's an implication that it was Helen maybe. But it's not so definite as with "broke off". Of course, if you don't know who it was (or don't want to say) then you could always choose an intransitive verb : John and Helen broke/split up. But I still don't think there's any necessary implication that it was mutual. It's just left open.

In fact, I can't think of any expression which definitely implies a mutual agreement. Perhaps because it doesn't happen very often ...
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