Break up a marriage VERSUS break off a marriage

English Language Tests, Intermediate level

ESL/EFL Test #148 [color=blue]“Idioms with the phrasal verb break”, question 4

It can be very difficult for youg couples to a marriage when there are young children involved.

(a) break off
(b) break away
© break out
(d) break up

English Language Tests, Intermediate level

ESL/EFL Test #148 [color=blue]“Idioms with the phrasal verb break”, answer 4

It can be very difficult for youg couples to break up a marriage when there are young children involved.

Correct answer: (d) break up

Your answer was: [color=red]incorrect
It can be very difficult for youg couples to break off a marriage when there are young children involved.
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‘break off a relationship’ is OK but not for a marriage. I would like to know the catch.

haihao

Can I safely assume that you’re not married, Haihao? :smiley: 8)

Let me turn the question around:
What differences do you see between ending a marriage and discontinuing a friendship?

Amy

Hi Amy,

You have always seen through me ever since I got on board this forum… :oops: :slight_smile: 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…

haihao

Haihao

I’ll try to help by giving an example of a sentence in which “breaking up (a) marriage” is acceptable, if not common:

These issues are breaking up our marriage.

The thing here is, the marriage has not yet ended. In this case, “breaking up” = “causing problems in”

HOWEVER, the above does not really connote common usage.

“Breaking up” is mostly used to describe the ending of a non-spousal relationship:

My girlfriend Jenny and I are breaking up.

My girlfriend Jenny and I are going to break up.

My girlfriend Jenny and I have broken up. Woe is me.

etc.

Would anyone please correct the spelling.

Tom

Hi Tom,

Thanks - correction notified.

A

Hi Alan, Prezbucky (Tom) and Tom,

Thank you all. But I am getting even more confused about the usage of break up and break off for the test…, :? I am sorry…

haihao

Hi Haihao

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.

Amy

Hi Amy,

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. :slight_smile:

haihao

Hi Haihao,

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.

A

Hi Alan,

Thank you so very much too for your examples which made my understanding for these two idioms even clearer now with a sense of ‘at ease’ or confidence. I feel it’s time for me too to have tea for it. :slight_smile:

haihao