Grammar

Breath or Breathe? (There’s an Easy Way to Remember the Difference!)

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Do you have trouble selecting between breath or breathe? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, it happened to a British online fashion and cosmetic retailer.

British retailer ASOS learned the hard way there’s only one correct choice between breath or breathe.

Social media drove the point home for the company after they released a new shopping bag. The bag in question is known as the “Be Kind” bag.

I think that’s certainly a message more of us need to hear in this crazy year. People on social media definitely need to hear it.

But people quickly spotted an error. You can see the bag here.

The second of three lines of text reads as follows:

Sleep. Breath. Reflect.

Did you catch the problem? The second word should be breathe, not breath.

The word breath is a noun that means the air we take in or expel from our lungs. We take a breath during the process of breathing.

One would have a difficult time if one chose not to employ the process of breathing, after all.

The word breathe, with that extra little E at the end, is a verb that means to inhale or exhale.

When you take a breath, you breathe.

The bag’s should have read, “Sleep. Breathe. Reflect.” because all three are verbs. You’d want to do each one, presumably to feel better and refreshed.

The retailer responded to a social media post, claiming one of their designers must have had a “Homer Simpson moment.” Well, at least they possess a sense of humor!

Breath or Breathe: Keeping them straight

I suspect the real challenge between these words is spelling only. If we hear either, we know whether it’s a noun or verb. We also know what’s being said.

But when we write the word, that’s where the confusion enters the picture.

You pronounce breath with a short E., as in shed. You pronounce breathe with a long E, as in tweed.

And that extra E in breathe might just be the little signal that will help you choose the right one. If you can remember that the one with two Es is pronounced like tweed or weed or seed — words that have two Es — that might be the easiest way to avoid your own Homer Simpson moment!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.