Skip to content
GrammarFlex » writing-tips » Breath vs Breathe: Which is the Correct Word?

Breath vs Breathe: Which is the Correct Word?

Last updated on November 4th, 2023 at 02:55 pm

When it's cold out and you can see your breath.
When it’s cold out and you can see your own breath.

Anyone familiar with the bitter winter elements knows that in extreme cold you can actually see your own breath . . . or is it breathe? If the appropriate word choice in the sentence above has you perplexed, then it’s high time you learn the difference between breathe and breath.  

When to use “breath” vs. “breathe”:

Breathe vs. breath illustrated in writing.

Breathe and breath refer to the same thing, but they do so differently because they belong to different categories of speech.

Breath, which sounds like breth aloud, is the noun form of the verb breathe. The noun breath refers to the actual air being inhaled and exhaled when we breathe. You might say that someone has bad breath if the air that’s expelled from their mouth is unsavoury.

Examples of breath in sentences:

His breath smelt of garlic.

She was very short of breath

We had to stop for breath before we got to the top.

To breathe is an action and the verb form of the noun breath. Breathe spelled with an ‘e’ at the end is pronounced differently than breath, and has an elongated ‘e’ vowel in the middle that makes it sound like breeth. To breathe refers to the action of taking air into your nose, mouth or lungs and sending it back out again.

Examples of breathe in sentences:

He breathed deeply before speaking again.

The air was so cold we could hardly breathe.

She was beginning to breathe more easily.

Phrases with breath

  • Bated breath (don’t expect something to happen)
  • To waste one’s breath/a waste of one’s breath (not worth talking to someone about something when it falls on deaf ears/it’s not likely to be acknowledged)
  • Be holding your breath/don’t hold your breath (don’t wait for something or expect for it to happen)
  • Catch a breath (to give someone a chance to breathe; normally said after some physical activity)
  • A breath of fresh air (something that’s refreshing, new or a welcome change)
  • All in one breath (something said or done quickly)
  • Jungle breath (foul-smelling breath)
  • Take a deep breath (to breathe, or inhale and exhale)
  • To swear under one’s breath (to say something offensive inconspicuously)
  • Take someone’s breath away (for someone to be overwhelmed by intense feelings, usually of passion or love)
  • Keep your breath to cool your porridge (focus on your life and your own issues rather than dwelling on other people’s problems)
  • The breath of life (that which we need to live and survive)

Phrases with breathe

  • To be able to breathe freely again (to feel relieved after something difficult or stressful)
  • To breathe new life into someone or something (to reinvigorate something that’s become dull or monotonous)
  • Breathe one’s last breath (to die)
  • To breathe a sigh of relief (to feel relief)
  • Not a breathe a word of something (to keep something a secret, not to mention it to anyone)
  • Eat, breathe and sleep (to dedicate all of one’s time to something-like we do with Grammarflex)
  • Breathe fire (to strongly express anger towards someone or something)
  • As I live and breathe! (an expression of amazement; similar to ‘Wow!’)
  • Hardly have time to breathe (hardly have the time to do anything)
  • Breathe easy (to feel relief, normally after something stressful)

Synonyms of breathe


  • inhale
  • exhale
  • draw in air
  • sigh

Origin of the word breath/breathe

Old English bræð “odor, scent, stink, exhalation, vapor” (the Old English word for “air exhaled from the lungs” was æðm), from Proto-Germanic *bræthaz “smell, exhalation”.

Check out other commonly confused words!


  1. Breath, Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, accessed on Oct 9, 2023.
  2. Breathe, Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, accessed on Oct 9, 2023.
  3. Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of breath.” Online Etymology Dictionary, Accessed 9 October, 2023.
  4. “Breath.” 2023. Farlex, Inc. 3 Nov. 2023
  5. “Breathe.” McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. 2002. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 3 Nov. 2023