16th August 2020
Word Choice: Breathe vs. Breath
“Breathe” and “breath” have related meanings, so it’s easy to get these words confused, but one is a verb and the other is a noun. Make sure you can use them correctly in your writing by checking out our guide below.
“Breathe” is always a verb. It usually means “inhale and exhale air.” This can refer to the biological process of breathing. For example:
He struggled to breathe in the smoky atmosphere.
Or, more generally, it can refer to any act of inhaling or exhaling:
She breathed in the crisp winter air.
Less commonly, people use “breathe” to describe exposing something to the open air, especially wine:
I opened the bottle to give it time to breathe.
In all cases, though, we pronounce “breathe” with a long “ee” sound. It therefore rhymes with words like “eve” and “sleeve.”
“Breath” is always a noun. We can use it to refer to inhaling or exhaling air from the lungs as we breathe, such as in the following:
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She drew a deep breath to clear her head.
Or we can use it to refer to the air we breathe:
His breath smelled of garlic.
Unlike “breathe,” though, we pronounce “breath” with a short vowel sound. It therefore sounds closer to words like “deaf” and “chef.”
Summary: Breathe or Breath?
These words are similar, so it’s easy to get them confused. But remember:
- Breathe is always a verb and typically means “inhale and exhale air.”
- Breath is always a noun. We can use it to refer to either the act of inhaling/exhaling or the air that we breathe.
The key distinction here is that “breathe” is a verb and “breath” is a noun. If you find yourself mixing them up, remember that “breathe” has a long “e” sound, which matches the extra “e” at the end of the word.
Spelling can be tricky, though, so if you’d like expert help to check your writing for errors, our team of experienced proofreaders is available 24/7.
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