There are many terms describing 'ending a relationship'. I'm looking for a dynamic (not static) verb to stop a not necessarily romantic or sexual relationship but to stop relationship for example with your family members or intimate friends because of a quarrel or disagreement.

I'm not on speaking terms with my brother.

How do you paraphrase this sentence with an dynamic/active verb?

  • Presumably, you are looking for something more specific than fall out?
    – Mick
    Jan 3, 2017 at 5:09
  • What do you think @Mick ? Is "fall out" appropriate and common and not weird to use in common conversations? Jan 3, 2017 at 7:19
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    I can't really think of anything else to use. Certainly, if you fall out with someone, you may no longer be on speaking terms. Fall out can be used in both everyday and formal English. Of course, there is the abominable unfriend.
    – Mick
    Jan 3, 2017 at 7:20
  • So i choose "fall out" to explain that action. It's a little strange why others hasn't mentioned it. I thought the reason is the verb "fall out" isn't accepted and common between natives in their daily conversations. So now it's settled :) :) Tnx @Mick Jan 3, 2017 at 7:28

5 Answers 5


The phrase that you are looking for may be as simple as fall out. I cannot think of anything more specific. Certainly, if you fall out with someone, you may no longer be on speaking terms with them. The expression can be used in both everyday and formal English.

fall out — phrasal verb with fall

(ARGUE) informal

to argue with someone and stop being friendly with them:

  • He left home after falling out with his parents.
  • She'd fallen out with her boyfriend over his ex-girlfriend.

Cambridge Dictionary


Piggy-backing off Andrew's answer, the word estrange can be used as a verb, but I don't hear it used that way very often, and it sounds awkward to me when I try to use it that way:

He estranged his brother last Christmas after an argument about politics.

You can look at this Google ngram and see that the adjective form has become much more popular than the verb form over several decades.

However, I looked up the verb estrange in the thesaurus, and found a very suitable synonym: alienate.

Unlike estrange, writers use alienate more often as a verb than as an adjective, according to the ngram. So you could say:

He alienated his brother last Christmas after an argument about politics.

According to NOAD, alienate is defined as:

alienate (verb) cause (someone) to feel isolated or estranged; cause (someone) to become unsympathetic or hostile

Looking up alienate in a thesaurus provides some other candidate verbs, such as divide (which is fairly common) and disunite (not so much so). However, I think divide works better in a more passive construct:

The brothers were divided last Christmas after an argument about politics.

(You wouldn't say, "He divided his brother last Christmas..." – at least, I hope the argument wouldn't get that out of hand.)

  • Are these forms common in everyday conversations? How do you personally explain that condition when you fight or quarrel with a friend (or your brother) and stop speaking and having relation? @J.R. Jan 3, 2017 at 7:02
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    As my answer says, alienate is a good word. It's the best word I can think of that fits the structure of your sentence is used in everyday conversation.
    – J.R.
    Jan 3, 2017 at 9:02

To shun means to avoid or refuse to meet with, usually from anger, contempt or other disapproving sentiment. To spurn means to reject and is more usually used for romantic relations. To cut is a somewhat archaic term that means to express contempt by refusing to acknowledge knowing someone.

None of these is exactly right for your use case though. To say "I fell out with him at Christmas" is a slightly unusual application of the expression, but admirably clear, while retaining a polite ambiguity as to just who is shunning whom. An American in this context might say, "I cut off contact with him".

But, really, I don't think we have an active verb for exactly what you're requesting – I feel pretty sure, given how much people in my family do this, I would have heard such an expression by now if there were one!

  • A clear answer. So as an american you would preferably choose only "I'm not on speaking terms", right ? Jan 3, 2017 at 9:04

The word you're looking for is "estranged" -- meaning, "to be like a stranger with". It is used for family or friends who once were close but who now, for some reason, are very distant.

He has been estranged from his family for decades and never talks about them.

People who are estranged can be reconciled.

The estranged brothers were reconciled by the death of their beloved mother.

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    Tnx. It's not a dynamic verb again. Does that mean,there is not a verb in this case not starting with to be verbs? Jan 2, 2017 at 21:56

How about

He was ostracized after behaving badly at Christmas dinner.
They are ostracizing him after he behaved badly at Christmas dinner.

For your example, you might say

I am avoiding my brother.
She is ignoring her ex these days.

both imply recent noncommunication.

  • Why all the terms are used in adjective form (with to be )? Isn't there any independent verb not accompanied with to be verb? @Peter Jan 3, 2017 at 7:08
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    Do these work for you? "They ostracized him after he behaved badly at Christmas dinner", "She began ignoring her ex after their fight", "I avoid my brother these days", "The church excommunicated the cardinal after the scandal".
    – Peter
    Jan 3, 2017 at 7:18
  • If it works for you abseloutely works for me too. Thank you Jan 3, 2017 at 7:22
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    Just to clarify, I think excommunicated is a specialized word that works well in the context of the church, but it would be a stretch to use it in conjunction with one's own family.
    – J.R.
    Jan 3, 2017 at 9:04

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