Fall apart

To fall apart means to break into pieces, to lose shape, or to lose structure.

Lesson #
August 14, 2023

Transcript

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Fall apart

Now it’s time to learn the phrasal verb “fall apart.” In a literal sense, to fall apart means to break into pieces, to lose shape, or to lose structure.

A great way to picture this is with food. A piece of fluffy cornbread is delicious. You can pick it up, take a bite…sometimes it holds together, sometimes it keeps its shape, but sometimes it falls apart. Sometimes it loses its shape and crumbles onto your plate. Then, you can use a fork to eat the rest, or pick up the pieces with your fingers. But when it falls apart, it loses its shape and structure. It’s no longer a “piece” of cornbread, but a pile of crumbs.

A burrito can fall apart, a burger or a sandwich can fall apart, same idea. It loses its shape. It was a burrito, now it’s just a pile of ingredients in a mess on your plate.

A building can fall apart. If you drive around farm country, at least in the U.S., you’ll see a lot of picturesque old barns. They used to hold small tractors and farm equipment. Now, though, much farmland is industrialized and small family farmers don’t use those small barns as much. And so many of the barns are falling apart. When a barn—or a building—falls apart, it starts to gradually break into pieces.

Maybe a door’s hinges are loose and the door doesn’t fully close. Maybe there are boards missing on the exterior walls. Maybe a window is broken. Maybe part of the roof has collapsed. The building is falling apart. The building is losing its integrity and its shape. It’s no longer sturdy and strong. It hasn’t completely collapsed…but it’s on the way. It will collapse in the future if it’s not restored.

So that’s falling apart in a physical sense. It’s no stretch , then, to think about how to use “fall apart” in a metaphorical sense. When something falls apart, it’s not working like before. It’s heading in the direction of failure.

You can use “fall apart” to describe a romantic relationship, especially a marriage, coming to an end. And that’s how I used it in today’s story about Tony Bennett . In the late 1970s, his marriage was falling apart. And that means, the marriage was failing. The strength and structure of a relationship were gradually going away, and it was heading to disaster.

You can say someone’s career is falling apart. And that described Tony Bennett in that time, too. He didn’t have any recording contracts. He was singing music from a previous time. He started a record label, but it went out of business. His career was losing its shape, it was going to end uncomfortably. But—and this was what was so remarkable about Tony Bennett’s career—he saved it. He turned his career around. He rebuilt his career, acting like an elder statesman of music, almost like an ambassador to a new generation.

So things that are falling apart—a relationship, a business, a career—it’s possible to save them. But only with a lot of effort to rebuild that relationship, business, or career.

An agreement can fall apart. An agreement can fall apart when the two sides to an agreement no longer do their part, or if they choose not to do their part. Activision Blizzard is a maker of video games, including the very popular “Call of Duty” game. Microsoft agreed to buy Activision for $68.7 billion.

For a long time, it looked like the deal would fall apart because the U.S. and European governments appeared to be opposed to the deal. That’s how things seemed. It looked like the agreement would no longer exist. But Microsoft won an important court case, and now they are on track to buy the game maker after all . It looked like it was going to fall apart, but in the end it did not.

A coalition government is an agreement. Those of you who live in parliamentary democracies, you know all about coalitions—and coalitions falling apart. A coalition government is when multiple political parties band together to form a majority. They have to share power. They have to give and take. It’s all based on an agreement on how they would share power. But a coalition can fall apart, if the members of the coalition are no longer happy, if some of the parties leave the coalition, if they abandon the agreement.

That happened in the Netherlands just last month. There were four political parties in a coalition government—put all four parties together, and they had a majority. But the coalition fell apart. Just like a falling building, it could not stand up any longer. The parties could not agree among themselves on an important asylum policy, so the coalition fell apart. It’s like a building that has collapsed. It’s now in a lot of small pieces—nobody has a majority, so there will be new elections in November.

See you next time!

And that brings us to the end of today’s Plain English, lesson number 598. Remember, the full lesson is online at PlainEnglish.com/598. That’s where you can find the transcript, video lesson, translations, exercises, and other lesson resources. PlainEnglish.com/598.

We’ll be back on Thursday with a new lesson. See you then.

¿Hablas español?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into Spanish. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

你说中国话?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Parlez-vous français?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Você fala português?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

日本語は話せますか?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Parli italiano?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Sen Türkçe konuşmayı biliyor musun?

The transcripts of Plain English lessons are available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation. Turkish translations are available starting at Lesson 278.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Mówisz po polsku?

The transcript of Plain English lessons are available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation. Polish translations are available starting at Lesson 278.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

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