Definition of tear someone/something apart in US English:

tear someone/something apart

phrasal verb

  • 1Destroy something, especially good relations between people.

    ‘a bloody civil war had torn the country apart’
    • ‘Between 1642 and 1646 England was torn apart by a bloody civil war.’
    • ‘For example, in some cases, as $m rises past some optimum, the flow of energy starts to tear the system apart, to destroy order.’
    • ‘Its bloody battle tore the country apart through the 1990s.’
    • ‘I imagine that sort of thing ruins lives, destroys marriages, tears families apart, and so on.’
    • ‘Reading John Vidal's article, I thought about people I know, including relatives, whose lives have been torn apart because of the wishes of a ruthless dictator…’
    • ‘And isn't there a risk it would tear your relationship apart?’
    • ‘Today, I am pleased that positive debate has ended much of the historical bickering that was tearing the industry apart and opening the door for other tourism destinations to welcome visitors we wanted here.’
    • ‘The Cypriot refugees' hope for peace reflects the attitude of many of their compatriots now facing the most significant development to affect them since a bloody war tore their country apart in 1974.’
    • ‘‘Paradise’ is a classic Eyedea track about how being too close in a relationship can tear a couple apart.’
    • ‘It would, perhaps, be an exaggeration to say that the worsening Hindu-Muslim divide in India threatens to tear the country apart, but certainly relations between the country's two major communities are as bad as they have ever been.’
    divide, split, split down the middle, sever, break apart, disunite, rupture
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  • 2Upset someone greatly.

    ‘stop crying—it's tearing me apart’
    • ‘It was tearing her apart to have to choose and to see Liz hurt was the last thing in the world Brett wanted.’
    • ‘The fact that Sen would be getting hurt in the end tore him apart.’
    • ‘Love hurt, it tore you apart, it destroyed lives and hearts and everything.’
    • ‘I couldn't be responsible for his harm, I just couldn't: it would tear me apart.’
    • ‘Strained, muffled cries, sobs that pierced the air and pierced my heart, small whimpers that tore me apart, but from what?’
    • ‘It tears you apart and destroys your spirit.’
    • ‘She can't because it would tear her apart to see her parents hurt so much.’
    • ‘Leaving this life and Hannah behind - the thought was already hurting him, tearing him apart.’
    • ‘She tore me apart, demeaning me and bruising my ego greatly.’
    • ‘Fortunately, her hits were weak and so they never hurt him physically; emotionally he was torn apart.’
  • 3Criticize someone or something harshly.

    • ‘I thought when I ran against him 4 years ago, he just tore me apart.’
    • ‘And they will judge us, denounce us and tear us apart again.’
    • ‘It makes us feel the disparate forces that tear the man apart.’
    • ‘Please don't tear us apart until after we get back.’
    • ‘Critic Pauline Kael tore Gimme Shelter apart, charging that the Maysles, along with editor and co-director Charlotte Zwerin, were involved in arranging the entire debacle, and that the resulting film was a sham.’
    • ‘If you so much as gently criticize him, they'll tear you apart.’
    • ‘Afterward, half-a-dozen young philosophy students went up to her and, being incredibly nasty and critical, tore her apart for the way she had delivered the talk.’
    • ‘All you critics out there better not tear me apart or I'll kill you!’
    • ‘Our worst fears about the more extreme critics tearing CIA apart when the new administration came in proved groundless.’
    • ‘Each should stop tearing him apart and respect the rights of the other women.’