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break down

Definition of break down in English:

1(Of a machine or motor vehicle) suddenly cease to function: his van broke down
More example sentences
  • The washing machine broke down - again - over Christmas.
  • Leaving for class the next day, my car suddenly broke down.
  • If a particular washing machine broke down after seven months of normal use, it would seem probable that there was something wrong with it at the time of sale.
1.1(Of a person) have the vehicle they are driving cease to function: she broke down on the highway
More example sentences
  • Unlike the Paris to Dakar rally, where every car has a support vehicle, if we break down in the Sahara we'll be hitching our way out.
  • If you break down in the desert, stay with your vehicle and never try to do anything in the heat of the day.
  • If you do break down or have to abandon your vehicle, try to push it off the carriageway.
1.2(Of a relationship, agreement, or process) cease to continue; collapse: pay negotiations with management broke down
More example sentences
  • John is urging owners to pay more consideration to their animals' needs when their marriage or relationship breaks down.
  • Doctors have gone on strike after an agreement with management broke down.
  • After wage negotiations with hospital management broke down last week, the National Medical Workers Union last Thursday voted in favor of a strike.
fail, collapse, founder, fall through, disintegrate
informal fizzle out
1.3Lose control of one’s emotions when in a state of distress: if she had tried to utter a word, she would have broken down the old woman broke down in tears
More example sentences
  • He tried to keep calm, not wanting to lose control and break down in front of the man who was challenging him.
  • In December 1998 he broke down in tears after losing to a little - known rival from Hong Kong.
  • She was afraid she would lose herself and completely break down.
burst into tears;
lose control, be overcome, go to pieces, crumble, disintegrate
informal crack up, lose it
1.4(Of a person’s health or emotional control) fail or collapse: his health broke down under the strain of overwork
More example sentences
  • In the summer of 1927, the Indian prince's health broke down and he went to Switzerland to recuperate.
  • I nursed my wife for three-and-a-half years until my health broke down.
  • For the next ten years, until his health broke down, he worked with great zeal to establish a public system of elementary education, supervised by a national body of inspectors.
2Undergo chemical decomposition: waste products that break down into low-level toxic materials
More example sentences
  • Ozone also tends to be unstable and break down into dioxygen and nascent oxygen and to react readily with other substances.
  • Rather, large molecules tend to break down into smaller ones.
  • In the chemical reaction, compounds break down to form various gases.
See parent entry: break
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