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ESL Lesson: Phrasal verb break

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Phrasal verb break or "Breaking up"

As you already know, phrasal verbs are an essential part of the language. They are also and I don't really need to tell you this, very difficult to guess the meaning of. Occasionally the same phrasal verb can have two different meanings. Take the verb break and the two meanings of break into. Someone who breaks into your house is called a burglar but you could also say: It's very difficult to break into journalism, meaning it is very difficult to get into a career in journalism. The same is true of break up.

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It can mean make into small pieces as in break up a bar of chocolate to give a piece to several people. And it can also mean that people especially a couple are no longer together if they are described as having broken up. And it's on that theme I have written a short story about two young lovers who apparently have decided to break up and not get married. Read the story and see what happens and also all the other phrasal verbs you can make from break:

Breaking up

Locally they were known as Romeo and Juliet in the small village where they had lived all their lives. Actually they were Dave Owen and Maggie Stevens. It was generally assumed they would get married as they had been inseparable since they were children. When therefore the news broke out in the local pub, appropriately called the Lovers Arms, that they were breaking up, nobody could believe it. After all they had been engaged for five years. Old Mrs Swenderbin, the celebrated cake maker who had been commissioned to make the wedding cake, broke down and wept openly when she heard about it. No-one was quite sure whether this was through sadness or at the thought of losing the cake commission. Everyone was talking about it wherever you went in the village, the pub, the shops, the park - everywhere. It wouldn't have been a surprise to anyone if the announcer on the radio had suddenly broken into the middle of a piece of music and informed the nation that Dave and Maggie had broken off their engagement. It still remained a mystery why it had happened. There was a wall of secrecy surrounding the whole affair which it was virtually impossible to break through. One reporter on the local paper however was determined to break down the barriers and get to the bottom of the matter.

Andrew had known the couple since schooldays and hadn't been long as a reporter but had already made himself a name by discovering things that the rest of the reporters would never have found out mainly because they would never break with tradition and use the unconventional methods Andrew employed. There was the occasion when Andrew caught a burglar breaking into the local bank. He had had a tip-off about the burglary and had managed to persuade the local manager to let him spend the night in the bank so that he could get pictures of the man actually as he broke in. Then there was the time he had actually got a picture of a man breaking out of a prison situated about ten miles away The editor had tried in vain to break Andrew of his unconventional habits but gave up because in the end he realised his stories helped sell the paper. On this occasion too he had made up his mind to break away from the others who were simply asking the members of the two families polite questions. He devised a plan which he was sure would work.

Christmas was approaching and the schoolchildren had broken up for the holidays and this gave Andrew an ideal opportunity to talk to Maggie's younger brother to find out what the two families were doing on Christmas Day. As usual they would spend Christmas together but the unhappy couple were not going to talk to each other. On Christmas evening Andrew dressed up in a Father Christmas outfit broke in upon their festivities, succeeded in making everyone laugh and after a few drinks Dave divulged the reason for the break-up. As always in these situations, the explanation was very simple: Maggie had accused him of being a coward because he had refused to take part in a charity parachute jump. In all honesty Dave broke out in a sweat at the very idea of jumping but had stuck to his guns and declined the offer. Being called a coward was just the last straw and it was he who had broken off the engagement.

Armed with this information together with Dave's help Andrew put his plan into action. Now, it so happened that Maggie owned a horse which had been broken in but was still a bit wild. Early next day, Boxing Day just as the sun was breaking out, a loud bang was heard at the back of Maggie's house apparently near the stable. As everyone was very sleepy, little notice was taken. Within an hour Andrew was banging on the family house asking for Maggie. He told her that her favourite horse had broken out of its stable and run away but Dave fearlessly had rescued it from drowning in the river with waves breaking over him and was on his way back with the animal. Miraculously Dave now earned himself the title hero instead of coward and the wedding was on again. Joy broke out in the village at the news and the local paper was full of the story together with graphic pictures of the rescue. The editor broke off talking at a meeting to congratulate Andrew on another scoop. Mrs Swenderbin was delighted too and resumed collecting ingredients for the cake.

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Next:ESL Lesson: Phrasal verb bring

Author: Alan Townend


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