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Is the news necessarily bad or upsetting when someone breaks the news? Can this expression just mean that someone tells somebody something new?

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    It can go either way. I can't wait to break the news about the new baby! or That apartment has been taken already. Sorry to break the news.
    – TimR
    Jan 9, 2018 at 19:04
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    It can be either way, but it does imply that the news will have some sort of effect on the other person, so it's more than just telling something new.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 9, 2018 at 19:15

1 Answer 1

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It may work both ways, but the expression is more commonly used referring to bad news:

break the news (to someone):

to tell someone some important news, usually bad news.

  • The doctor had to break the news to Jane about her husband's cancer. I hope that the doctor broke the news gently.

(McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs)

break the news (to somebody):

to be the first to tell someone some bad news

(OLD)

break the news:

(=tell someone about something bad): I’m not looking forward to breaking the news to Dad.

(MacMillan Dictionary)

break the news

: to tell (someone) bad news We tried to break the news to her gently.

(M-W)

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