Tim Bowen would break our hearts if he ever stopped writing these fantastic articles! This week, he discusses collocates of the word break.
Apart from the physical things that people can literally break, they can of course break the law (fail to obey it). With luck the prison sentence that follows won’t break (destroy) their spirit, although it might break their heart (make them feel extremely sad). Once they are back in the world of work, they may wish to break new ground (do something completely different from what has been done before) or break the habit of a lifetime and do something that they themselves have never done before.
Some people are good at breaking the ice (doing or saying something that makes people feel less shy or nervous in a social situation), while others have a habit of breaking ranks (disagreeing publicly with the other members of their group). Before a performance, actors are routinely told to break a leg (wished good luck, as it is considered bad luck to actually use the words good luck) and in the middle of a long trip, travellers may wish to break their journey (stop somewhere for a short time). Many people like to break the back of a particular task (finish the main part or the hardest part of it) and others sometimes break their back doing it (work extremely hard to get it done).
If you say something won’t break the bank, it means that it won’t cost a lot of money. However, if you happen to be in a situation where someone wealthy is pouring out their heart to you and describing the terrible situation they find himself in, you will probably respond with You’re breaking my heart, indicating rather sarcastically that you don’t feel any sympathy towards them whatsoever.