I hate to break it to you


Senior Member
This comes from the show the Vampires Diaries S1E18.

Two brothers/vampires Damon and Stefan are talking about Stefan's restraint towards human blood.

Stefan: You're really enjoying this, aren't you? Just watching me in a struggle.
Damon: Very much so.
Stefan: I hate to break it to you, Damon, but I actually have it under complete control.

Could you tell me what means "break it" here? "Say it"?

  • Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    We use "break the news to someone" primarily about bad news. It may also be used sarcastically, but the primary meaning is "tell someone bad news".


    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    "I hate to break it to you, but..." tends to occur in humorous or ironic contexts, where "I hate to break it to you, but" prepares the addressee for "bad news", but in fact precedes a trivial statement (e.g. "your zip is undone").

    You would not (for instance) say "I hate to break it to you, Algernon; but your dog was run over by a bus this morning" – unless you knew that Algernon would in fact be very pleased that his dog was run over. (In which case, it would be an example of irony.)

    This explanation has me wondering if you can use it with "bad news".
    Does this mean you wouldn't use this phrase in a very sadden but lighthearted situation?


    Senior Member
    English - England
    It is the "I hate to" part of the phrase that creates to irony, not the "break it to" part. The "I hate to" part means exactly the opposite; the person who is saying it is, in fact "very happy to..."

    So, in the case of bad news:
    e.g. "A police officer was sent to the Smith's house to break the [sad] news to them that their son had died in an accident."

    There is a similar construction, "I hate to [be the one to] tell you [this] but..." this can be used neutrally to introduce bad news,

    "I hate to tell you but your dog is terminally ill."
    "I hate to be the one to tell you this, but the company is bankrupt and everyone has lost their job."
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    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Thanks PaulQ. I agree with you on all counts. Stefan in OP's example is being sarcastic. He's quite happy to burst Damon's bubble.