You can write something like:

Mary's focus was broken by the boys sitting behind her.

However, can you write something like this?

Mary's focus on biology was broken by the boys sitting behind her.


Mary's focus on her biology assignment was broken by the boys sitting behind her.

I think I've never seen the structure of the two last examples, so I'm not sure.

If they are incorrect, what's the closest correct alternative?

  • I wonder if you try to find examples of how a word is collocated with another before asking these types of questions. You could do this by looking for: to break focus or broken focus or focus was broken. I doubt you will find any hits from good sites with that collocation. You might try "interrupt". – Lambie Oct 18 '18 at 15:36
  • Your third example is fine and will be generally understood, but it begs the question "The boys' what?" Their behavior, their mere presence, laughing, talking? In other words, are you talking about Mary's hormones or something the boys are doing that breaks her focus? – Mark Hubbard Oct 18 '18 at 15:46
  • @MarkHubbard All of the examples call for focus being broken. Would you say: My focus was broken by x? – Lambie Oct 18 '18 at 15:52
  • @Lambie - Probably not, but I have no problem with x broke my focus. – J.R. Oct 18 '18 at 17:00
  • @J.R. Same difference. And here it is passive. – Lambie Oct 18 '18 at 17:07

As an editor, my recommendation is: interrupted or disturbed my focus.

I will spare the google hits, but they are there in great numbers.

There are 412 hits for break [my] focus. I do not recommend that usage.

break is often used with attention: My attention was broken by a knock on the door.

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concentration is more often broken than attention is. Attention is usually distracted. If you're using focus as a synonym for concentration, broken would work, I suppose, but "to break someone's focus" seems off to me.

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