“Tear apart” is often used to refer to destroying something or upsetting someone.


1. “Tear (something) apart” – To destroy something.
  • “You can see videos online of buildings being torn apart by hurricanes.”
  • “The blast tore the building apart and damaged properties nearby.”
* Similar phrasal verbs: “Tear apart” or “Rip through.”

“Rip through (something)” has a similar meaning but this sounds better in the active voice.

  • “You can see videos online of hurricanes ripping through buildings.”
2. “Tear (something) apart” – To pull something violently into pieces.
  • “Dingoes have been observed to be tidy eaters but can tear apart their prey in certain situations.”
  • “How do I stop the cat from tearing the furniture apart?”
* Phrasal verbs with the same meaning: “Tear apart” or “Tear up.”

“Tear (something) up” also has the same meaning.

  • “It wasn’t long before the kids tore up the new couch.”
3. “Tear (something) apart” – To search a place thoroughly but in a careless way that causes damage.
  • “They tore the house apart, looking for the hidden safe.”
  • “You don’t always have to tear the room apart just to look for your keys, you know?”
4. “Tear (somebody) apart” – To make someone very sad, upset or worried.
  • “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!”
  • “Their breakup really tore him apart.”
* Phrasal verbs with the same meaning: “Tear apart” or “Tear up.”

“Tear (somebody) up” also has the same meaning.

  • “He’s still really torn up about their breakup.”
5. “Tear (somebody/something) apart” – To criticise someone or something in a harsh or angry way.
  • “The article really didn’t hold back on tearing the company apart.
  • “I heard he tore the server apart because she served him the wrong drink.”
* Phrasal verbs with the same meaning: “Tear apart” or “Rip apart.”

“Rip (somebody/something) apart” also has the same meaning here.

  • “The reviews are really ripping the new movie apart. Do you still want to watch it?”
6. “Tear (something) apart” – To make a group of people – a country, organisation, or family – argue or fight each other.
  • “When will you realise that your gambling is tearing the family apart?
  • “Our family migrated overseas just before the civil war tore the country apart.”
7. “Tear (something) apart” – To severely defeat an opponent.

This use was only found in the Merriam Webster dictionary. This is similar to destroying something but in a figurative sense.

This also seems to be more commonly used in gaming or competitive sports. 

  • “He had to start from scratch when his character got torn apart in last week’s competition.”
  • “The visiting team tore our team apart yesterday. It wasn’t good.”

Original post: 5 June 2021