Breathe vs. Breath | Definition, Difference & Examples

Breathe and breath are related words with different grammatical roles.

  • Breathe is a verb that means “inhale and exhale air.” It’s pronounced with a long “e” sound in the middle and the “th” sound from “the” at the end.
  • Breath is a noun that refers to the actual air you inhale and exhale when breathing (or to the faculty of breathing itself). It’s pronounced with a short “e” sound in the middle and the “th” sound from “thing” at the end.
Examples: Breathe in a sentence Examples: Breath in a sentence
The theater was so crowded that it was hard to breathe. It was so cold inside the room, he could see his own breath.
I could hear the sound of someone breathing. I took a minute to catch my breath and cool down.
Breathe in, hold for ten seconds, and then breathe out. Inhale, hold your breath for ten seconds, and then exhale.

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More uses of breathe (verb)

As well as referring to the act of moving air in and out of the lungs, breathe can also be used to refer to something that’s exposed to air, or that allows air to pass through it (such as breathable sports clothing).

Examples: Other uses of breathe
After her run, Soumaya let her shoes breathe.

Kyle opened the wine to let it breathe before the party.

Breathe is also used in a range of idioms. Note that in its present participle form, the last “e” is dropped and “-ing” is added to the end of the word: breathing (not “breatheing,” but still pronounced with the long “e” sound).

Expression Meaning
After the good news, she could breathe easily/easy/freely. Be relieved
The principal is breathing down my neck. Put pressure on
The advisor breathed new life into the project. Revive or reinvigorate
Tip
One way to distinguish between breathe and breath is to remember that breathe ends with an “e.” Many verbs in English end with an “e” when they have related nouns (e.g., bath/bathe, teeth/teethe).

More uses of breath (noun)

Breath is also used in many expressions.

Expression Meaning
Don’t hold your breath. Keep your expectations low
Your presence is a breath of fresh air. A welcome change
She said something under her breath. Quietly or covertly

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Worksheet: Breath vs. breathe

Test your knowledge of the difference between “breathe” and “breath,” and their uses in different expressions, with the worksheet below. Fill in a version of “breathe” or “breath” in each sentence.

  1. I took a deep ______ and jumped off the diving board.
  2. It’s nice to go to the countryside and ______ the fresh air.
  3. Don’t hold your ______ waiting for that promotion.
  4. The professor opened the windows and door to let the room ______.
  5. The young politician ______ new life into the party.
  1. I took a deep breath and jumped off the diving board.
    • “Breath” is used as a noun referring to the air you inhale and exhale when breathing.
  1. It’s nice to go to the countryside and breathe the fresh air.
    • Here, “breathe” is correct, as it’s a verb referring to the action of inhaling and exhaling air.
  1. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that promotion.
    • “Breath” is used in many idioms. The expression “don’t hold your breath” means “keep your expectations low.”
  1. The professor opened the windows and door to let the room breathe.
    • “Breathe” is correct here. In this instance, it’s used figuratively to refer to air passing through rooms.
  1. The young politician breathed new life into the party.
    • “Breathe” is also used in many idioms. “Breathe new life into” means “revive” or “reinvigorate.”

Other interesting language articles

If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

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Ryan, E. (2023, February 05). Breathe vs. Breath | Definition, Difference & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/commonly-confused-words/breathe-vs-breath/

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Eoghan Ryan

Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.