I needed to break up the tasks of an estimate.

I needed to breakup the tasks of an estimate.

I needed to break down the tasks of an estimate.

Which one of the above is correct and Why?

When to use "break up", "breakup" and "break down"?

  • 1
    I don't know of any context where hyphenated break-up would be a valid verb form. So far as I know it's just the less common form of the noun breakup (meaning disintegration, breakdown, separation - often figuratively, of a couple in a failed personal relationship). But idiomatically, even the non-hyphenated "phrasal verb" break up doesn't work here. The normal choice would be the non-hyphenated phrasal verb break down - to divide into parts or categories. That's General Reference. – FumbleFingers Nov 13 '14 at 13:13
  • Removed hyphens..just wanted to know which one is correct. What if I keep it as a file name "Estimate Breakup" or "Estimate Breakdown" or "Estimate Break down" etc. – Deepak Mishra Nov 13 '14 at 13:19
  • Use the word breakup as a noun, the phrase break up as a verb. Better avoid the hyphen to avoid confusion. – Kris Nov 13 '14 at 13:32
  • 1
    break down = break up and breakdown = breakup -- it's just an AmE-BrE difference in usage. Where are you located and where's your reader (target audience) from? – Kris Nov 13 '14 at 13:35
  • I am in India and readers are from America and India both :) – Deepak Mishra Nov 13 '14 at 13:36

Break down would be the most appropriate. Break up is what you do when you separate from your significant other.


Breakup is not correct. It is a noun referring to the event of a break up, and is largely limited to romantic couples separating (or oddly enough, countries splitting into smaller countries).

Break up can be used, and is more common. It also implies that nothing is lost. You're simply splitting things into tasks.

Break down can be used, but is more uncommon. It implies that some meaning-less stuff is lost and the result is somehow more pure or concentrated.

Also, unless you're talking about breaking down the tasks themselves, both would likely be phrased as "I needed to break ___ the estimate into tasks". Also, in this form, you can just use break alone.


According to Merriam-Webster Online, one appropriate term (at least in U.S. usage) might be break out as a transitive verb:

break out ... transitive verb ... 3 : to separate from a mass of data <break out newsstand sales>

This seems applicable to the idea you have of furnishing specific details about each of the tasks covered by the estimate.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fourth edition (2000) likewise has these relevant definitions of break out:

5. To be separable or classifiable into categories, as data. 6. To isolate (information) from a large body of data.

The American Heritage Dictionary also lists a relevant noun form:

breakout n. ... 3. A breakdown of statistical data.

These senses of break out and breakout are not to be confused with such alternative meanings of break out and breakout as "to emerge suddenly," "to become suddenly covered," "to prepare," or "an escape."


Use two words when it is used as a compound verb. Use one word, spoken with ever-so-slightly less space between the component parts, when it is a noun.

Break down the task into smaller pieces.

A car breakdown on a rainy night is a miserable affair.

Young couples break up all the time.

Our breakup on a rainy night ended our miserable affair.

Since you are using verbs in all of your examples, they should be written as two words.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.