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break down

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phrasal verb
Word Forms
present tense
I/you/we/theybreak down
he/she/itbreaks down
present participlebreaking down
past tensebroke down
past participlebroken down
  1. 1
    [intransitive] if a machine or vehicle breaks down, it stops working

    The car broke down just outside Winchester.

  2. 2
    [transitive] to divide something such as a total amount into separate parts

    The amount doesn't seem quite so bad when you break it down into monthly payments.

    1. a.
      [intransitive/transitive] if a substance breaks down or is broken down into parts, it separates into the parts that it is made up of

      The substance is easily broken down by bacteria.

  3. 3
    [intransitive] if a relationship or discussion breaks down, it stops being successful

    At one point, the talks broke down completely.

  4. 4
    [intransitive] to start crying, especially in public

    People broke down and wept when they heard the news.

  5. 5
    [transitive] to hit something such as a door or wall very hard so that it falls down

    Firefighters had to break down the door to get into the flat.

  6. 6
    [transitive] to remove a difficulty that prevents something from happening

    The aim of the agreement is to break down barriers to trade.

See also main entry: break


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