You have always seen through me ever since I got on board this forum… :oops: actually…
IMO, ending a marriage means…, well, break up a promise,…while discontinuing a friendship is up to the feeling(s) of the friends…, Oh, you almost got me there, I am afraid…, but still, break off could mean dissolve…, I couldn’t go any further…
Break up has the sense of “break into pieces” or “dissolve” or “discontinue” and this sort of ‘breaking’ often takes time and it isn’t a simple or clean break.
Break off has the sense of discontinuing or stopping something suddenly. For example, you can break off a phone call. Or I might say that the handle of my coffee cup broke off. It’s a quick, uncomplicated action.
A marriage does not usually end suddenly or without complication. The break-up generally takes time. The marriage starts to come apart (break up) slowly – long before one spouse physically leaves the other. And even after the spouses separate physically, there is a lot of red tape involved before the divorce is final. Only then is the break-up complete.
I guess I got it completely this time and I am convinced as well that I would never like to be involved in the ‘break up’ thing at any possibility, which sounds really too much for me. :o Thank you very much for the tip.
Leaving relationships aside for the moment, consider the other figurative uses of break up/off often used in newspaper reports. The fundamental difference is that break + off = stop and break + up = disperse, make into smaller pieces. We then have:
After several unsuccessful discussions the President decided to break off diplomatic relations with Wallabutonia.
Eventually the police managed to break up the crowds of protesters and everyone went home to tea.