We’re all on break.
Question: Do you usually say “on a break” or “on break”?
It could be either. Colloquially (as used when people are talking casually) the expression “we’re on break” is more common. It is most likely a scheduled break time where employees gather in a break room for a set period of time, usually 15 minutes. If I was “taking a break” it is more likely an unscheduled time off. It could mean resting between household tasks ( I am retired) or ceasing to do an activity, such as cancelling a regular golf date. This could be a temporary or permeant stop of the activity.
I would probably say ‘on a break’ but ‘on break’ is OK as well even though it’s a bit weird, grammatically speaking. I’ve never thought about this before, but I think you can only omit the indefinite article after a preposition. So you can say, ‘I’m on break’ or ‘It’s time for break’ or ‘I just came back from break’, but you can’t say, ‘I’m going to take break’ - you have to say ‘take a break’.
“on break” is a little more specific and has an implied shared known meaning between the two speakers (something that was planned and expected). You could think of this as “on THE break” (even though people don’t speak like this). Eg.:
How was teaching this week?
Oh, I’m not teaching. I’m on break (summer/winter break)
Can you come to my desk?
Yeah, I’ll be over in a few minutes. Right now I’m on break.
“on a break” is more general (it could be any break for anything, or better yet, a break that wasn’t planned). Eg.:
How is your relationship with Anna?
Oh we’re not dating right now. We’re on a break
Did you finishing cleaning the garage?
No, I’m on a break. (taking a break)
you could make a comparison between “there is THE dog” vs “there is A dog”
Riley’s gone to sleep. We’re all on break. (i.e. all of Riley’s emotions are taking a break because she has gone to sleep.)
I normally say “on break,” namely when talking about a break at work. We are on break. (We are taking our designated 15-minute break.) Also as students, we talked about being “on break” during periods in the school year when there was no school. As miscology has aptly pointed out, this is very much an Americanism.
Similarly, in the summertime people in the US say that they are “on vacation,” while people in the UK say “on holiday.” If you are “on summer vacation” or “on summer holiday,” that generally means you are taking an extended summer break from school, which may or may not include traveling. If you work and are “on vacation” or “on holiday,” that generally means you are traveling.
On January 8, an American student at the University of Delaware wrote on Twitter:
We’re on break until Feb 11 here at UD, but because of my winter British Design History class + trip, it’s officially time to get back into the swing of things.
In other words, while some students attend classes for 5 weeks during Winter Session, she and many other students are on break, but she is having to study during winter break (which is Winter Session for some people) before classes begin on February 11 for the Spring Semester. It’s a little confusing because she calls it her “winter” class, but it’s really a Spring Semester class (even though it actually begins in wintertime) which includes a trip to Great Britain.
“On break” is very American-English. I rarely hear it in the UK. “On a break” is more common here. It varies from region to region too. For late afternoon\early evening breaks you’ll often hear people say “I’m having my tea”.
I like having my tea while I’m on break (says this American). That must sound like a redundancy to someone from the UK. When I got back from Argentina, it was medialunas and (yerba) mate.