What Does “Put on the Brakes” Mean?

Learn the definition and synonyms of the idiom 'put on the brakes' in both literal and figurative senses. Discover how it is commonly used in everyday conversation and the importance of context.

Understanding ‘Put on the Brakes’

Literal Meaning

The idiom “put on the brakes” means to apply brakes in a vehicle to slow down or stop.

It can also refer to slowing down or stopping any action or process, not just in a vehicle.

Example sentences:

  • The driver had to put on the brakes quickly to avoid hitting the pedestrian.
  • The company decided to put on the brakes and delay the product launch.
  • She had to put on the brakes and take a break from work to avoid burnout.


  • slow down
  • hit the brakes
  • come to a stop

Figurative Use

The idiom is also used figuratively to mean slowing down or stopping something that is moving too fast, or to caution someone to be careful.

It can also imply a sudden change in direction or a change in course.

Example sentences:

  • The manager put on the brakes and stopped the project from moving forward.
  • The teacher put on the brakes and reminded the students to go over their notes before the exam.
  • The company had to put on the brakes and change their marketing strategy.


  • slow down
  • caution
  • change course

Language Learning Context

For language learners, “put on the brakes” is a common idiom that can be used in everyday conversation.

It is important to understand the figurative use of the idiom to avoid confusion.

Example sentences:

  • The student had to put on the brakes and review the grammar rules before the test.
  • The language learner put on the brakes and asked the native speaker to repeat the sentence.
  • She had to put on the brakes and look up the meaning of the idiom on HiNative before using it in a conversation.

AI and Automation

AI and automation can help improve writing skills by detecting and correcting errors in idiomatic expressions such as “put on the brakes”.

However, it is important to use context and understand the figurative use of the idiom to avoid incorrect corrections.

Example sentences:

  • The AI writing tool corrected the idiom “put on the brakes” to “apply the brakes” in the sentence, but it was incorrect in this context.
  • The automated writing software suggested “slow down” instead of “put on the brakes” in the paragraph, but it changed the meaning of the sentence.
  • The language learner used an AI writing assistant to correct the sentence, but it missed the figurative use of the idiom.


  • AI writing tool
  • automated writing software
  • writing assistant

Can “It Takes Two to Tango” be Used in the Same Way as “Put on the Brakes”?

Yes, the meaning of “it takes two” can be used in a similar way as “put on the brakes.” Both phrases imply the need for collaboration or a pause in action.

While “it takes two” emphasizes the importance of working together, “put on the brakes” suggests the need to slow down or reconsider.

Improving Writing Skills

To improve writing skills and avoid errors in idiomatic expressions such as “put on the brakes”, it is important to practice using the idiom in context and to seek feedback from a native speaker or a language learning community.

Example sentences:

  • The language learner joined a language learning community to practice using idiomatic expressions such as “put on the brakes”.
  • The writer asked a native speaker to review the article and provide feedback on the use of idiomatic expressions.
  • She used online writing tools to check for errors in idiomatic expressions and improve her writing skills.


  • practice
  • seek feedback
  • online writing tools