Grammar 101

Reex@michaelkwan You’re welcome! Bad grammar is a pet peeve. Have you done one on “breathe” vs. “breath” yet?

I’m always open to suggestions for new article ideas on Beyond the Rhetoric, so I’m more than happy to address this concern posed by reex on Twitter. After all, we could all work to improve our grammar, not only for the sake of respect and professionalism, but also for the sake of clarity. You want your words to be clear and understood, yes?

The words “breath” and “breathe” are only separated by a single letter, and while their meanings are certainly related, their usage is entirely different since the two words are entirely different parts of speech. The difference between these two words is as big as the difference between affect and effect, another pair of words that is also separated by a single letter.

Breath is a noun. It is an object. You can take a breath. You do not take a breathe, though you can take a breather if you’re feeling a little tired. It should also be noted that “breath” is pronounced with a short “e” sound, just like “nest” or “effective.”

In other words, a breath is the air (or some other gas) that is taken in and expelled during the act of respiration. You can fog up a window using your breath when you breathe on the glass. A breath can also refer to a brief pause or break.

Breathe is a verb. It is an action word. You can breathe in and breathe out, but you cannot breath in and breath out. You can have a nice shirt that breathes well, allowing air to pass through it. “Breathe” is pronounced with a long “e” sound, just like “feet” or “seat.”

In other words, to breathe is to take in and to expel air (or some other gas). You probably breathe heavily after a workout and you may have trouble breathing after eating a massive burger. In some sentences, you can swap the word breathe for inhale, exhale, or respire.

Do you have a suggestion for a future Grammar 101 post here on Beyond the Rhetoric? Feel free to let me know through the comment form below and you just may featured in a future edition of Grammar 101!