Quick answer
"Fall apart" is an intransitive verb phrase which is often translated as "deshacerse", and "break down" is an intransitive verb phrase which is often translated as "estropearse". Learn more about the difference between "fall apart" and "break down" below.
fall apart
An intransitive verb phrase is a phrase that combines a verb with a preposition or other particle and does not require a direct object (e.g. Everybody please stand up.).
intransitive verb phrase
1. (to break into pieces)
a. deshacerse
The book was so old that it fell apart in my hands.El libro era tan viejo que se deshizo en mis manos.
The sandcastle the kids made is falling apart.El castillo de arena que hicieron los niños se está deshaciendo.
b. caerse a pedazos
Buy yourself some new boots. Those are about to fall apart.Cómprate unas botas nuevas. Esas se van a caer a pedazos.
2. (to become ineffective)
a. desmoronarse
There were so many divisions within the party that it was falling apart.Había tantas divisiones dentro del partido que este se estaba desmoronando.
b. fracasar
The couple's marriage fell apart because they were totally unsuited to each other.El matrimonio de la pareja fracasó porque eran totalmente incompatibles.
c. venirse abajo
The project fell apart due to lack of funds.El proyecto se vino abajo debido a la falta de fondos.
3. (to become emotionally undone)
a. derrumbarse
Losing his job was the last straw, and he fell apart.Cuando perdió su trabajo, esa fue la gota que colmó el vaso, y se derrumbó.
b. desmoronarse
Don fell apart when Janice left him.Don se desmoronó cuando Janice lo dejó.
c. venirse abajo
Don't fall apart now that you've come so far.No te vengas abajo ahora que ya has recorrido tanto camino.
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break down(
breyk
 
daun
)
An intransitive verb phrase is a phrase that combines a verb with a preposition or other particle and does not require a direct object (e.g. Everybody please stand up.).
intransitive verb phrase
1. (to stop functioning)
a. estropearse
The hot water heater broke down last night while I was in the shower.Anoche, se estropeó la caldera mientras estaba en la ducha.
b. averiarse
My car broke down in the middle of nowhere, so I had to hitchhike.Se averió el auto en el medio de la nada, así que tuve que hacer dedo.
c. descomponerse
Regionalism used in Latin America: all the countries in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Does not include Spain.
(Latin America)
The car broke down because the radiator overheated.El carro se descompuso porque el radiador se recalentó.
2. (to succumb to emotional stress)
a. derrumbarse
After working sleeplessly for weeks, he broke down and started screaming at his boss.Después de trabajar sin dormir durante semanas, se derrumbó y empezó a gritarle a su jefe.
b. echarse a llorar
When he realized she had gone for good, he broke down.Cuando se dio cuenta de que ella se había ido para siempre, se echó a llorar.
c. romper a llorar
I can't watch "Bambi" without breaking down.No puedo ver "Bambi" sin romper a llorar.
3. (to fail)
a. fracasar (negotiations)
Talks between the two countries broke down after the attack.Las negociaciones entre los dos países fracasaron tras el atentado.
4. (to divide into constituents)
a. descomponerse
As citric acid breaks down, what substance is released?¿Qué sustancia se libera al descomponerse el ácido cítrico?
A transitive verb phrase is a phrase that combines a verb with a preposition or other particle and requires a direct object (e.g. Take out the trash.).
transitive verb phrase
5. (to destroy)
a. derribar
The detective obtained a warrant and went to break down the door of the suspect.El detective obtuvo una orden de detención y se dirigió a derribar la puerta del sospechoso.
b. echar abajo
They began to break down the Berlin Wall in 1990.Empezaron a echar abajo el Muro de Berlín en 1990.
6. (to separate)
a. dividir
It's easier if we break the work down into stages.Es más fácil si dividimos el trabajo en etapas.
7.
A phrase used as a figure of speech or a word that is symbolic in meaning; metaphorical (e.g. carrot, bean).
(figurative)
(to overcome)
a. vencer (resistance)
How can we break down people's resistance to change?¿Cómo podemos vencer la resistencia de la gente al cambio?
8. (to analyze)
a. desglosar (figures)
I can break down the charges on your bill so it's easier to understand.Puedo desglosar los cargos de la factura para que sea más fácil de entender.
b. descomponer
It can be difficult to break down a complicated sentence.Puede ser difícil descomponer una oración complicada.
9. (to decompose)
a. descomponer
In a hydrolysis reaction, water is used to break down a molecule.En una reacción de hidrólisis, se emplea agua para descomponer una molécula.
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