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Breath vs. Breathe: What’s the Difference?

Breathe and breath are commonly confused even though they are two different parts of speech. Breathe is a verb, and breath is a noun. Breathe means inhaling and exhaling. Breath refers to either a full cycle of breathing or the actual air that is inhaled and exhaled. 

To make it more confusing, both breathe and breath can be used in multiple ways and are part of many different idioms. So, read on to understand the differences between these two words. 

Breathe vs. Breath

The main difference is that breathe is a verb and breath is a noun. It can help to remember that the shorter one, without the “e,” is the noun, and the longer one, with the “e,” is the verb. There is an “e” in both breathe and verb, so they belong together!

Proper Use of Breath

Breath is a noun. It refers to the process of breathing or a full cycle of breathing. For example, when you’re stretching, you might need to hold a position for five breaths. Another common meaning of breath is to reference the actual air you breathe in and out while breathing.

You can also use breath to refer to a small amount of something. It is often used in this sense to refer to a small amount of wind. Breath can also be used to signify a rest. For example, common phrases include “take a breath” or “catch a breath.”

Proper Use of Breathe

The main meaning of breathe relates to inhaling and exhaling air through our lungs. When used in this sense, breathe is an intransitive verb. 

However, breathe can also refer to good circulation of air. So, people will say that an article of clothing breathes. A third meaning is something exposed to air. For example, wine should breathe before you drink it. In addition, breathe can be a figurative way to say that something is living.

There are two more meanings of breathe. If you add “in” or “out” to the end of breathe then it means “inhale” or “exhale.” Breathe can also mean “impart,” such as saying that someone breathes life into a party or breathes an air of mystery.

Idioms Using Breathe and Breath 

Breathe and breath are a part of many idioms: 
  • “Room to breathe” means you need freedom or more space to do something. 
  • “A breath of fresh air” is something that challenges staleness. 
  • Speaking “under your breath” means to say something quietly.
  • “Breathing down your neck” means you’re under scrutiny or someone is close to catching up with you.
  •  “I can breathe easily now” means you’re relieved.
  • “Take your breath away” means you’re surprised.
  • Doing something “in the same breath” as something else means doing it at the same time.
  •  “You shouldn’t hold your breath” means you shouldn’t hope. 

Example Sentences with Breathe and Breath

He breathed easier after the treatment.

They let the wine breathe before serving it.

I like to wear clothes that breathe when I go running.

She breathed in the clear mountain air.

The remodeled kitchen breathed new life into our house. 

 She held the yoga pose for three breaths.

The sprinter caught his breath after reaching the finish line.

When you meditate, you can observe your breath going in and out.

The player fought for breath after being tackled. 

The new teacher was a breath of fresh air in a boring class.

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By Patrice Riley

Patrice Riley is the pen name of Dr. Deborah Riley. She is a retired English professor that enjoys grammar, literature, and all things writing.

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