The Grammar GuideSpellingWhat is the difference between "breath" and "breathe"?

What is the difference between "breath" and "breathe"?

What is the difference between "breath" and "breathe"?

The words breath and breathe are often confused because they are easy to mistype. We'll explain the difference.

Breath is a noun meaning "the air taken into or exhaled from the lungs".

Breathe is a verb meaning "to draw air into (inhale), and expel air from (exhale), the lungs in order to extract oxygen and excrete waste gases".

Breath and breathe have similar spellings and meanings, but because one is a noun and one is a verb, they are used differently.

Breath (noun) refers to the air that you actually inhale and exhale. You might say take a breath or hold your breath. Some synonyms of breath are: airing, relief, proffer, breathing space, gentling wind.

Breathe (verb) refers to the process of inhaling and exhaling air. Remember, if it is an action, use breathe. Some synonyms of breathe are: respire, pause, instill, oxidize, oxidate.

Is the phrase "don't hold your breath" or "don't hold your breathe"?

The right phrase is "don't hold your breath" – e.g. I hope he'll join us, but don't hold your breath.

What's the right phrase, "save your breath" or "save your breathe"?

You should use "save your breath" – e.g. You might as well save your breath, she isn't listening.

What's the right phrase, "waiting with baited breath" or "waiting with baited breathe"?

The correct phrase is "waiting with baited breath" – e.g. We sat there waiting with baited breath. It would appear any second.

Is the right expression "the air we breathe" or "the air we breath"?

You should use "the air we breathe" – e.g. *As the air we breathe becomes increasingly polluted, is there anything we can do about it?"

Is the right expression "breathe new life into" or "breath new life into"?

The correct expression is "breathe new life into" – e.g. Let's breathe new life into these romance tropes.

Is the correct phrase "could hardly breathe" or "could hardly breath"?

The correct expression is "could hardly breathe" – e.g. I was so winded that I could hardly breathe.

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The definitions in this article were adapted from Wiktionary.

Dictionary Definition of breathDictionary Definition of breathe

Examples of breath in a sentence

He caught his breath.
- The Hound of Rowan by Henry H. Neff
Relieved, Lyle let out a long, slow breath.
- The Haunted Air by F. Paul Wilson
Alex swore under his breath, wondering what he’d done.
- Secret Weapon Spouse by B. J. Daniels
I took a deep breath and tried to think rationally.
- Touch of Darkness by C. T. Adams; Cathy Clamp
But after a few puffs of breath in and out, she gave up and walked stiffly to her bedroom.
- The Replacement Child by Christine Barber

Examples of breathe in a sentence

His heart missed a beat and then began pounding so that he had to breathe deeply to quieten it.
- Doctor No by Ian Fleming
A man's got to see, he's got to breathe, he's got to be able to get a grip .
- Cropper's cabin by Jim Thompson
We collapsed as one, our frantic heartbeats slowing, relearning how to breathe.
- Touch of Darkness by C. T. Adams; Cathy Clamp
He just held her until she could stop blubbering long enough to breathe.
- Breakfast in Bed by Robin Kaye
It took hours to fight free of its spell, breathe normally, and get my work down.
- A Graveyard for Lunatics: Another Tale of Two Cities by Ray Bradbury
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