Thursday, December 8, 2011

Grammar Daze - breath/breathe

I am long, long overdue for a Grammar Daze post. November and December have been insane—November because of all the writing, and December because my kids have a gazillion holiday activities. My son takes Taekwondo, my daughter does dance, and between the two of them, there are potlucks and testing and performances and parades. I haven't been this busy with activities for them…well, ever, I think. Hello, December!

I never even said how November ended up going for me: it was fantastic. I got two books finished—well, I finished one and my co-author and I finished a second. I only have one novel left to finish now, and I made a lot of progress on it.

How is December going for you? 

And now for today's Grammar Daze:

breath vs. breathe

I come across breath and breathe being done incorrectly quite often. You know that grammar rule that says if you add an "e" to the end of a one syllable word with a short vowel, it makes the vowel long? Pin becomes pine, mop becomes mope, quit becomes quite, and so on and so forth. And then you learn about words like have and come and you realize that it's a bunch of crap because for every rule in English, there are a million exceptions.

Or maybe that's just me. 

We're not going to even get into the fact that "ea" can say EEEE or EHH or AY.

Anyway. This rule of adding an "E" at the end to make it long applies for breath. By itself, the word is short. Breath is said like bread. But, voila, add an E to the end, and breath becomes breathe with a long EEEEE sound.

Breath and breathe are not interchangeable.

Breath: noun (Person, place, thing, idea.)

Breathe: verb (It's what you do.)

To remember this, we can use the example that breath sounds like bread. There is no E on the end of either word. Both breath and bread are nouns. If you can change out breath (no E!) for bread and it makes sense, you've got the right word.

Likewise, if you're trying to make someone breathe (what they do), try substituting "bread."

If you're saying, "Just breathe, honey, it's going to be okay," then try putting bread in that sentence.

"Just bread, honey, it's going to be okay."

This doesn't work, so we add an E to make it 'breathe'.  This might get confusing because when you say "breathing," you're dropping the "E" at the end of "breathe" to add "ing". The word you're using is still breathe, though.

Happy writing!


  1. thats a lot to say in one bread =)
    congrats on finishing bookS!
    me editing, ever editing

  2. Sounds like your November was really successful, writing-wise! Thanks for the grammar daze. Fortunately, breathe/breath has never confused me. There is one word that I always have to check... and for the life of me I cannot remember what it is right now! (oops!)


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!