I heard "crack open" (by clicking an icon) in a computer video course. When I googled it, it says roughly that "crack open" means "open". My question is: why not use "open" instead. I'm struggling with English phrasal verbs for many years without any improvement. In french (my semi-native language) economy in words is considered elegant and I can't understand the heavy use of phrasal verbs in English, especially when it seems not justified.

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    While the French achieve elegance through their grammar, the English do it with their vast vocabulary. There are more words in English than in French, but we do not achieve the high-flown subjunctives that French does.
    – WS2
    Sep 23, 2022 at 22:28
  • [correction: I've been struggling with phrasal verbs for many years.] To open and crack open are not exactly the same. It would help for you to give us your context. "He opened the safe." Yes? But, a thief would crack open a safe. For example. There is always a meaning associated with the preposition. The verbs are not heavy: Il a ouvert le coffre-fort. versus: Il a cambriolé le coffre-fort. Different meanings.
    – Lambie
    Sep 25, 2022 at 18:39

3 Answers 3


To crack something means to break something. In "crack open", the word is just acting as an auxiliary verb to show how something has been opened.

For example, if I said "I opened the door" you'd imagine I'd used the handle and opened it the normal way. But I could say "I kicked open the door", and now you understand that I forcibly opened it by kicking it.

To 'crack open' something suggests breaking it to get inside. You could crack open an egg, for example.

However, you will find native speakers use 'crack open' in a less literal sense to suggest opening something in a very rough manner, for example, "let's crack open a case of beer". I've also seen a lot of explainer videos on YouTube showing how to repair tech where the creator has said things like "let's crack open this phone..". It gives an air of casual confidence that helps to make what they are doing sound easy.

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    to add to this, I've never heard "crack open" being used in the context of opening a computer program.
    – Esther
    Sep 23, 2022 at 13:42
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    "crack open" is also what we typically do when we open something new which is encased in a throwaway package that needs to be ripped off or torn open. Thus "crack open" suggests "open something for the first time"
    – Stef
    Sep 23, 2022 at 18:25
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    My native AME usage for "crack open" in the context of doors or windows is that you're intentionally opening them just a crack - that is, just a little bit. For example, you might crack open a window in a bathroom to let steam from the shower vent outside or crack open a child's bedroom door to let in just a little light if they're afraid of the dark. There's nothing rough about either, though.
    – minnmass
    Sep 23, 2022 at 19:09
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    Where I come from, cracking something open doesn't suggest roughness. It's a colloquial expression that emphasizes the desirability of opening the object, such as a case of beer. There is also the usage described by minnmass which has a different emphasis. In any case, "open" is most often used alone, without "crack".
    – user184411
    Sep 24, 2022 at 0:03
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    @minnmass Sometimes this would be phrased as simply "crack the window/door", or "leave the door cracked", as well.
    – Hearth
    Sep 24, 2022 at 5:28

You can use crack open a computer in the right situation.

If a new computer (or phone, or whatever) comes out and you want to make a video about it, you can say something like "Let's crack this open and see what's inside". In this case, the "crack open" part refers to the fact that you are doing something outside the bounds of the normal use of the computer.

You can open a door a crack (i.e., just open it a bit). As a result, you may hear someone say (in Canada or the US, maybe elsewhere): Crack open the door and let some fresh air in"

And as @astralbee mentioned, you can crack open a beer (or a case of beer). It's not necessarily in a rough manner, it may be "boy, that was a long week, let's crack open a couple of beer and forget it happened"


For almost any word w in the English language, there is way to convert word w into a noun, convert Word w into a verb, convert w into an adjective, an adverb and so on.

"crack-ed open" is an extreemly common phrase used as an adjective. For example, "I bought a new lightbulb, but it arrived cracked open"

The phrase "crack open" is the verb-form of the adjective phrase "cracked open"

For every sentence containing the phrase "crack open" there exists at least one sentence of the same meaning which contains the words "crack" and "open" but the two words do not appear consecutivly.

None of the examples shown below use the verb-phrase "crack open":

  • Will you please crack the hood of the car open(EX0A)

  • "Please open the door a crack" (EX1A)

  • The treasure chest opened just a crack(EX2A)

  • Sarah cracked an egg open. (EX3A)

  • "Bob began cracking the crate open* with a prybar" (EX4A)

  • "Now, open the test booklet and get cracking" (EX5A)

By re-arranging the order of words, speakers of the English language can make the word "crack" be a noun, verb, or almost anything they want it to be. Somtimes we will insert the work "crack" before the verb "open" to create an adverb.

  • Will you please crack open the hood of the car (EX0B)

  • "Please crack open the door (EX1B)

  • The treasure chest cracked open (EX2B)

  • Sarah cracked open an egg. (EX3A)

  • "Jill cracked open a glass lightbulb by dropping it on the floor (EX4A)

  • "Now, crack open the test booklet" (EX5A)

To crack somthing open means to do one of the following:

  • Open somthing which has never been opened before, and begin using it for the first time.
  • Physically remove a wrapper from a tangible object e.g. "the woman cracked open her package of candy."
  • Open somthing in a way which produces an audible sound or noise. The sound might be reminiscent of stone or glass cracking.
  • Used sarcastically to say that the act of opening somthing was accompanied by a sound not unlike a crevace opening in the earth during an earthquake or ground tremor.
  • create a visual opening in an object such that the opening is percieved to be visually long and narrow.
  • open somthing which has hinges.
  • verb form of the noun "fissure"
  • To open somthing and begin working on it or using it.
  • To open somthing and put a make a crack apear at the same time.
  • synonym of the verb "to hatch"
  • to open somthing by parting it into two halves. e.g. "the girl cracked open her science textbook".
  • Thanks. Is the word open in the phrase "crack something open" a verb, adverb or adjective? Does this pattern has a name so I can study it more in some book? It's really peculiar to the English language.
    – Nadirspam
    Sep 24, 2022 at 19:05

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