What Is “Break” In Japanese? 4 Answers

Things don’t always go the way you expect them to. Sometimes bad things happen and items get smashed. If you drop something important and it shatters, you might want to know how to tell someone. What is break in Japanese?

But there are other types of breaks as well. There one for when you break a bone in your body. There’s another one for when you break up a romantic relationship. And of course there is one for when you want to take a break from an activity.

Let’s go over all of these now!

Break An Object

The first word that I want to talk about is 壊れる (kowareru). It means “to be broken” and it is used when things break down such as a car or computer.

Perhaps your car won’t start in the morning and your spouse asks you what’s wrong. They say “is it out of gas?” but you just filled up yesterday so it can’t be that. You suspect that some important internal piece finally broke since it’s a really old car.

  • 何かが壊れたそうだ。
  • nanika ga kowareta sou da.
  • It looks like something broke.

The word 壊れる is the word that you want to use when something just breaks, but you don’t really know why. On the other hand, if you broke something yourself then you would use 壊す (kowasu).

This second word is obviously very close to the first one with just a slight difference in pronunciation. So keep that in mind.

Anyway, when you use 壊す it’s because a person was the cause of something breaking because of a choice, carelessness, or something else that was controllable.

  • 酒もいいが、体を壊すまで飲むなよ。
  • sake mo ii ga, karada o kowasu made nomu na yo.
  • Sake is (also) good, but don’t drink until your body breaks.


Because of the dual-nature of these words, a person might use the one where something broke and it’s not their fault even if it actually is their fault. This might just be their way of trying to avoid responsibility for their actions.

Let’s say that a kid was playing with their parent’s tablet and they got a little too rough with it one day and dropped it on to the floor. Now it won’t turn on and they take it to their mom and use 壊れた to say that “it broke” which indicates that it’s the tablet’s fault for not working.

However, this mom knows that her child can be hard on electronics and she’s not buying it.

  • こわれたんじゃなくて、こわしたんでしょ。
  • kowaretan ja nakute, kowashitan desho.
  • It’s not that it’s broken. You broke it, didn’t you?

(Let’s Speak Japanese!)

Break A Bone

There are a lot of words for “to break” in Japanese compared to English. Now I want to talk about a different object that gets broken and the new verb we have to use with it.

I am of course talking about breaking a bone in your body. Have you ever broken your arm or leg?

I’ve never actually “broken” a bone before, but I fractured my wrist once. The worst part was that I couldn’t play on my PlayStation anymore!

At any rate, the Japanese word 折れる (oreru) means “to break; to fracture” and it is the one that we want to use when we get hurt in this way.

  • 腕を折れる
  • ude o oreru
  • to break one’s arm

Break Up With Someone

Breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend sucks. In English, we use the same word “break” just like we would when an item gets smashed, but in Japanese they use a different word.

They use 別れる (wakareru) which has a meaning of “parting with people” and can be used to say any of the following:

  • to separate (of a couple)
  • to break up
  • to divorce

So that makes this the word we want to use when talking about breaking up with a BF or a GF. Since this is something that, when we tell other people about it, has usually already happened, we need to use the past form of the verb.

The casual way to do this is with 別れた (wakareta) which is the one that we would use with friends or family. If you were in a situation that required more politeness, then you would be better off using 別れました (wakare mashita) instead.

Be sure to use the particle と (to) to let people know who you have parted with.

  • 彼女と別れた。
  • kanojo to wakareta.
  • I broke up with my girlfriend.

If you want to say that you got dumped, which lets the listener know that it wasn’t your choice to split and you would rather have stayed together with them, then you will use 振られた (furareta) which along with the particle に (ni) attached to the name of your ex.

  • エミリーさんに振られた
  • Emirii-san ni furareta
  • I was dumped by Emily


Take A Break

Let’s end that last depressing topic and switch over to something with much more positive connotations.

I’m talking about taking a break!

This could be a small recess from work, or a nice rest between manual labor. Either way, the word that we will want to use is 休憩 (kyuukei) which means “rest; break; recess” and is both a noun and a suru-verb.

  • 休憩したいよ!
  • kyuukei shitai yo!
  • I want a break!

Something that is kind of interesting about this word is that there is a phrase in both English and Japanese that line up pretty nicely with one another.

In English, we like to say “take a break” as if a break were something physical that we could pick up in our hand.

In Japanese, the word for “to take” is とる (toru) and they also use this word in the phrase 休憩を取る (kyuukei o toru) to say “take a break” just like we do. Pretty neat!

It’s Break Time!

That is all the information that I have for you today on this topic. I’m sure that there are even more Japanese words that can be used for “break” but I think that these ought to be enough to get you going.

If you have any questions on anything that we covered, or if there is just a comment that you would like to make then please feel free to do so down below.

Thanks for reading!

4 thoughts on “What Is “Break” In Japanese? 4 Answers”

  1. Under the Break An Object section, you have どう in the original Japanese sentence but in the romaji sentence you have ‘sou’.

    nanika ga kowareta sou da.
    It looks like something broke.


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