Posted by: janecronin | September 16, 2018


The verb “romper” means “to break”.  This can mean the literal kind of breaking, mobile screens, bones, fencing, that kind of thing, and also in the non-physical context of relationships and friendships.  We can also use the word “romper” in a kind of social context.  A new political movement might “romper moldes” (break molds – that is traditional roles or systems).  This same phenomenon is expressed in the phrase “romper esquemas” (break systems or outlines: that is traditional roles and ideas).  In the social sense as well we can talk about “romper el hielo” (to break the ice).  We can also “romper con el pasado” (break from the past) and “romper con la rutina” (take a break from the routine).

In terms of grammar, “romper” obeys all the usual rules except one, which is the past participle “roto”.  In fact, many people learn the word “roto” (feminine “rota”) meaning “broken” without ever associating it with its base verb “romper”.   Thus we can say “la puerta está rota” (the door is broken) or “nuestra relación está rota” (our relationship is broken).  Another way of saying the same thing is “Hemos roto nuestra relación” which basically means “We have broken up”.

An idea or phenomenon that is innovative can be referred to as “rompedor” or “rompedora”.  The translation of this word is “ground-breaking” which obviously contains the same idea.  There are a lot of compound words starting with “rompe-“ all containing the “breaking” concept.  For example, there is “rompeolas” (breakwater – literally, wave breaker); “rompecabezas” (puzzle or brainteaser – literally, head breaker; “rompecorazones” (heart-throb – literally, heart breaker) and, if you’ll pardon the expression “rompebolas” (ball-breaker, or as my dictionary politely puts it, “someone who is extremely annoying”)

Sometimes “romper” is used in the sense of being “stunning”.  In a play I was in a couple of years ago, one of the female actors appears dressed up to the nines (another interesting phrase) and exclaims “Estoy que rompo” (I’m looking stunning – enough to break camera lenses or hearts, I suppose).  Something that is “breakable” is “rompible” and therefore the opposite, “unbreakable” is “irrompible”.

If you are unfortunate enough to break a bone or some other part of your body, the usual way to express this is with the reflexive form “romperse”.  Therefore, for example, “I have broken my arm” is “me he roto el brazo” (literally “I have broken myself the arm).  This is along the same lines as many expressions, particularly referring to ones physical person, which use reflexive verbs and avoid the possessive adjective (my, your, his, her etc) replacing them with “the”).    Similar structures are: “me duele la cabeza” (my head hurts – literally, it hurts me the head), “me he puesto la chaqueta” (I have put on my jacket – literally, I have put on myself the jacket).

In English we have many uses for the word “break” which do not automatically translate as “romper” and if you need a break now, you actually need a “descanso” (a rest).

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