Break down in tears

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namlan

Banned
Vietnam
- After her divorce with her husband, she broke down in tears.

- Is "break down in tears" considered the same meaning as "burst into tears" and "cry one's eyes out"? :)

Thanks a lot!

NamLan
 
  • Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Well, actually, there is a difference (albeit slight). "Burst into tears" is usually a sudden outburst. One minute, she's fine and the next minute, she's gushing tears. That's why we use the word "burst". "Broke down in tears" doesn't necessarily mean that sudden burst. She may have started with a little trickle and it may have slowly increased and suddenly, she can't speak because she's crying so hard. She did not "burst" into tears but wound up "breaking down" anyway.

    "Cry one's eyes out" would be the same as "bawling".
     

    jesusguime

    Banned
    Chinese
    Hi,
    Is it also right to view "broke down in tears" in question as "lost control over herself and began crying?" Thanks.
     

    jesusguime

    Banned
    Chinese
    Thanks, Dimcl.
    I want to make sure if "broke down" amounts to "lost control." From your reply, it doesn't mean so. Then what should I interpret it as?
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    - After her divorce with her husband, she broke down in tears.

    - Is "break down in tears" considered the same meaning as "burst into tears" and "cry one's eyes out"? :)

    Thanks a lot!

    NamLan
    To "break down" is to be so overwhelmed by emotion as to have no control, to be unable to do anything else.
    When a car breaks down it does not work, it does not do what it was meant to do, it does not go anywhere.

    "Burst into tears" is something we might do when upset by an unkind word or sudden shock. It does not have the same degree of devastation as "break down".

    "Cry one's eyes out could mean breaking down but it could also be a response to a sad film or story, which again would not carry the same degree of devastation.


    Also, the context provided does not fit with the act of crying in any of the three ways described.
    A divorce is a long term process and "after" is a non-finite time. These descriptions of crying are all short term/finite.

    A long term/non-finite expression would be:

    After her divorce she found herself crying all the time.

    Alternatively, you could redefine the time period to match the expression:

    The day her husband left she broke down in tears.


    Note: After her divorce from her husband...

    It is redundant to state "her husband" because we have already identified the subject as female ("her") and the verb (divorce) identifies the relationship as a marriage. A wife is usually assumed to be married to a husband unless otherwise stated.
     
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