I need some context before making my question.


I was in a pub yesterday and together with a friend of mine we were practicing English (we are in the UK). Between the two of us I'm the one who knows English better , so basically I'm trying to teach him what I know (which is not that great but it's still a starting point). He's a very beginner so such "sessions" are his very first conversations in English and therefore he often struggles.


At the end of the evening he wanted to ask me whether he was "annoying/bothering" me because of such conversations (because he thinks I get very tired and it could be too much of an effort) and he used the expression "Am I breaking your balls?", in our language such expression (vulgar slang) is actually used to point out that something is annoying/frustrating/nagging etc.

I don't think such an expression is used in English, is there any equivalent (vulgar slang) for the same thing?

I've seen (but never heard actually) something like "get on someone tits" or "busting someone's balls", but I do not think they're actually very common here.

So the context is basically two guys, very close to each other so everything can be said without being afraid to be particularly offensive etc, one of which is very frustrated.

What would have probably said an actual English guy?


A typical query would be “Am I bothering you?” or “Am I getting on your nerves?”

But a more vulgar one might be: “Am I becoming a pain in the ass?”

Sometimes one approaches this with statements instead of questions:

I don’t want to become a /pain in the ass/bother/nuisance, so let me know if you think I am.

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I think an English guy would say ‘I’m sorry, am I giving you a hard time?’

He might say ‘sorry if I’m getting on your tits’ (slang, not polite)

Or ‘sorry if I’m getting on your wick’ (wick=nerves). Slang, but polite.

‘Busting your balls’ can mean working hard on something - but you can’t say ‘busting someone’s balls’ it’s not idiomatic. You can say ‘he busted his balls to win that promotion’. You could say ‘thanks for busting your balls (working so hard) to help me’ but it sounds a bit odd - usually that phrase is used to describe a 3rd party - passively.

And the ‘breaking balls’ thing - we don’t have.

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  • English does have "breaking balls" to mean the same thing meant in the OP's question. A search will show it. And to OP, I think that's vulgar enough, right? – Zebrafish Jun 6 '19 at 1:58
  • Although ‘breaking my balls’ might show up in searches, in the UK it would be recognised as an Americanism, not as native UK English. Similarly ‘busting my ass’. It’s the sort of thing foreigners speaking English, might say, having heard it in a movie. But to English ears it sounds a bit wierd and if someone said it to me, I’d raise an eyebrow. – Jelila Jun 7 '19 at 6:08
  • I noticed this question was bumped and is rather old. If I'd paid attention to that I wouldn't have said anything. I thought when you said (paraphrasing) "we don't have 'breaking balls'" I thought you meant "we" to mean English speakers, but I realize you mean "English people". I misunderstood. – Zebrafish Jun 7 '19 at 6:12
  • Oh I see, no probs, @Zebrafish :) sorry if that was unclear – Jelila Jun 7 '19 at 6:15


breaking my balls

is one way to say it or a little more commonly:

busting my balls.

There are a couple of alternatives that are less vulgar but still informal.

The most tame is simply

quit giving me a hard time

quit busting my chops

(most of the other items there are about exerting great effort, rather than 'giving me a hard time')

quit yanking my chain

(most of the others are about literally pulling some body part)

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  • 1
    I don’t think that’s what OP is trying to express. “Am I getting on your nerves” seems more like what is wanted. – Jim Nov 22 '18 at 5:46
  • None of these are idiomatic in British English. ‘Busting my balls’ is American, and the others all beginning ‘quit’ aren’t idiomatic either. In English we’d say ‘stop’, not quit. We rarely use ‘quit’. ‘Busting my chops’ is American. If you said that to someone in the UK they’d think you were taking off Sly Stallone. Yanking my chain isn’t idiomatic in the UK either. Annoying me, getting on my nerves, getting on my wick, or even ‘winding me up’ are much more idiomatic. But in the US, yes I’’m sure those are fine. But that wasn’t the op’s question - he asked about UK English. – Jelila Jun 7 '19 at 6:03

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