The word break

bmo

Senior Member
Taiwan
The police ply the suspect, hoping he would break.

1. Is this a correct sentence?
2. What is break here? The suspect breaks down and confesses or the police finds a loophole the suspect provided.

Thanks.
 
  • Derblur

    Senior Member
    USA English
    The police ply the suspect, hoping he would break.

    1. Is this a correct sentence?
    2. What is break here? The suspect breaks down and confesses or the police finds a loophole the suspect provided.

    Thanks.
    It generally means that questioning broke the truth out of the suspect.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    "Ply" seems a bit mild to me for police and it doesn't seem like an action that would lead to breaking someone down.

    To "ply" a guest would be to constantly bring them food and drink. I can't think of another meaning for "ply" that would fit this sentence. You could also "ply" a girlfriend with sweet talk. :) It's a way to attempt to make someone more amenable to a suggestion or open to conversation.

    "hoping he would break" does mean they hope he would break down and either confess or provide them with information.
     

    Derblur

    Senior Member
    USA English
    "Ply" seems a bit mild to me for police and it doesn't seem like an action that would lead to breaking someone down.

    To "ply" a guest would be to constantly bring them food and drink. I can't think of another meaning for "ply" that would fit this sentence.

    "hoping he would break" does mean they hope he would break down and either confess or provide them with information.
    Maybe "Pry" ?
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    The police ply the suspect, hoping he would break.

    1. Is this a correct sentence?
    2. What is break here? The suspect breaks down and confesses or the police finds a loophole the suspect provided.

    Thanks.

    I think what you might be saying is:
    The police plied the suspect with questions, hoping he would break.

    "Plied" means to bombard him with so many questions, he doesn't have time to make anything up that isn't true.

    The police interrogated him. (Asked him lots of probing questions, hoping to tire him out and make him vulnerable enough to tell them the truth.)

    "Break" means getting the suspect to give in and confess, or share pertinent information about the case.

    The cops keep questioning him, using different ways to gain information, hoping to find just what you wrote: loopholes in his story. (Inconsistencies or even outright lies.)


    AngelEyes
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It is definitely ply.
    To ply is to present persistently. In this context, it meens to keep questioning, despite the apparent failure to produce information.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Don't we have a tense problem?

    The police ply the suspect, hoping he would break. :confused:

    The police ply the suspect, hoping he will break. :)
    The police plied the suspect, hoping he would break. :)
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Ply: to work at steadily. The sentence has more meaning if you say the police plied the suspect with questions, hoping he would break.
    I don't think you can use "ply" as "to work at steadily" in this context, though. This meaning is more like "he plied his trade for thirty years".

    If you "ply" a person, it doesn't mean to work steadily at that person. I think it can mean that you continue to ask questions in the hope of revealing something. The only reason I think that it doesn't work in this context is "hoping he would break."

    Here are a few Googled examples:

    She nodded appropriately and carefully plied the girl with questions as they made their way out to the courtyard.

    ..in contrast to Stradlater whose response is to ply the girl in "this Abraham Lincoln, sincere voice" until she complies.

    The man had plied the girl with alcohol before he had sex with her when she woke up to be sick

    "Plied" means to bombard him with so many questions, he doesn't have time to make anything up that isn't true.
    I've never heard this meaning of "ply." Do you have any other examples?
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Right, Elroy...it has to be this:


    The police plied the suspect with questions, hoping he would break.

    It means to manipulate and maneuver the guy by phrasing and re-phrasing the questions in such a way that they wear him down, both physically and psychologically.

    They're "playing him" - playing mind games to get him to tell them what they want him to.



    AngelEyes
     

    bmo

    Senior Member
    Taiwan
    "Break" means getting the suspect to give in and confess, or share pertinent information about the case.

    So break can be either case here?

    Thank you all.

    bmo
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    What do you mean, James? I'm shocked you've never heard this applied to police procedures!

    Maybe I watch too much Law & Order. ;)

    You know, they withheld food and water and plied him with questions until the guy caved and gave them what they wanted.

    It's a bang, bang, bang, sort of action. They bombarded him from all sides with questions and the poor guy broke and confessed to it all.

    Hasn't anyone else ever heard of this?


    AngelEyes
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    "Break" means getting the suspect to give in and confess, or share pertinent information about the case.

    So break can be either case here?

    Thank you all.

    bmo
    Well, I'd say yes. More so to getting the suspect to confess, but they'd settle for something less, like getting important facts that would lead them to the real killer or killers.

    If their goal was to break him to the point of just handing over information and they get him to do that, then yes, they broke him to the extent they wanted to, even if he didn't confess. (Maybe he wasn't the main suspect, but still important, overall.)

    AngelEyes
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Would you like the use of the word, "assail" better?

    The police assailed the suspect with questions, hoping he would break.


    AngelEyes
     

    bmo

    Senior Member
    Taiwan
    Oh, I was trying to use the word ply, but it seems like a weak case here.

    This is from Oxford.com:

    ply2


    verb (plies, plied) 1 work steadily with (a tool) or at (one’s job). 2 (of a vessel or vehicle) travel regularly over a route, typically for commercial purposes. 3 (ply with) provide (someone) with (food or drink) in a continuous or insistent way. 4 (ply with) direct (numerous questions) at (someone).

    If it is synonymous to direct, then it is rather weak as some of you have said.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    What do you mean, James? I'm shocked you've never heard this applied to police procedures!

    Maybe I watch too much Law & Order. ;)
    I love Law and Order: SVU. I'm not saying I haven't heard the word "ply" used in connection with police procedures. I'm saying that I have never heard "ply" used to mean "bombarded" or "barraged" with questions. "Ply" indicates a much milder, coercive action. Girls might ply their friend with questions about her date last night. That doesn't mean they barrage her with questions until she breaks down and tells them the truth. :) They might ask her a thousand questions, but there is no aggression involved.

    It's the characterization of "ply" I'm disagreeing with, not that it means "ask many questions."

    You know, they withheld food and water and plied him with questions until the guy caved and gave them what they wanted.

    It's a bang, bang, bang, sort of action. They bombarded him from all sides with questions and the poor guy broke and confessed to it all.
    No. I disagree. "Ply" is a gentle action, in my opinion, even if it's persistent and with urgency. "Ply" is not "barrage" or "bombard." Ply is more of a coaxing or wheedling or gently manipulative action, not a forceful action, in my experience, and I haven't seen any context yet that changes my impression of it.

    That's why I think "hoping he would break down" is not consistent with "ply." "The police bombarded him with questions, hoping he would break" would work for me. "The police plied him with questions, hoping he would slip up" would also make sense. "Break" and "ply" just don't go together, in my opinion.
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Hi James,

    I understand why you feel the way you do, but I still see it my way. :D I'm just kidding with you...I always learn from you.

    "Ply" is another word for "assail" as I wrote before - and yes - maybe that word gives a more one/two-punch than the original, and I think it's what you are seeking. You want more forcefulness in your action to match the strength of the outcome.Or you want to tone down the result to match the depth of the beginning.

    Granted, "ply" is a soft-core version, but it still delivers the mind-picture I require.

    Oh, and about that girl scenario...listen, we wouldn't quit the interrogation until all bases had been covered. I'm not sure even "bombard" would begin to describe that. Cops could learn a thing or two from young girls.

    Thanks for replying.


    AngelEyes
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    James,

    Do you mean can I gve you something that's already in print? I guess I'd have to look for one. If I find one, I'll send it to you.

    Do you mean do dictionaries and thesaurases list a link between the two words "assail/ply," then the answer's "yes." I found several, just in scanning the 'net.

    You can take any word and pick your choice of strength in its usage as compared to others like it...it's a matter of opinion, though admittedly, certain words attract and are agreed upon by large groups of people over others.

    "Plied" works for me. I wouldn't think twice about it not being functional in the context of the original sentence here. Mainly because while "assail" sounds like it's more bang, bang, bang..."ply" means a constant hammering. Just like water wears away stone in a soft way, that's how I can see "ply" getting the job done, too. It's a felt-covered bang,bang, bang...but police-wily action all the same.

    Sometimes the strongest jolt is the one that rips up your pants and into your seat. Unseen, but terribly effective.


    AngelEyes
     
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