Using neutron diffraction, we have measured the elastic phase strains of Al/TiC and Al/SiC composites under uniaxial tensile loading. The phase strains were used to reconstruct the global elastic strain. It has been found that, above macroscopic yield, the global elastic strain response is not linear. A theoretical model shows that the nonlinearity is dictated by changes in the ratio of longitudinal phase stresses. Furthermore, the changes in this ratio resulting from matrix plasticity and reinforcement fracture are different which leads to distinct slope changes in the global elastic strain response that can be used to distinguish the onset of these two processes on the global elastic strain loading curve.