flee / escape

  • deddish

    Senior Member
    English
    Escape involves getting away from some form of captivity or imprisonment, whereas you can 'flee' from nothing in particular if you feel like it. (Unlikely, but possible.)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    You may flee in an attempt to escape, but be caught before you actually escape.

    And of course you can escape from something without fleeing at all.
     

    Binario

    Senior Member
    USA
    Russia, Russian
    I guess, flee refers mostly to physical movement, like to run away from something, whereas to escape may mean just "to avoid" without actually lifting a finger.
     

    Trisia

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    I guess, flee refers mostly to physical movement, like to run away from something, whereas to escape may mean just "to avoid" without actually lifting a finger.

    But you don't always need to run in order to flee temptation, and I've often heard of people trying to escape from prison, and I don't mean with the help of their lawyers.

    I really dig Panj's answer by the way.
     

    Lexiphile

    Senior Member
    England English
    Flee certainly implies a physical movement from someplace or to someplace (usually both). You can flee the country, flee to Brazil or flee over the mountain.

    Escape can and often is figurative. You can escape from gaol/jail (not figurative) or you can escape punishment (figurative) or you can escape from you wife (a bit of both).

    Edit: thinks: should I delete this post, since everyone else has said the same thing at the same time.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    A police vehicle was chasing a vehicle with suspects. The car developed a flat tire but continued to flee.

    Would "escape" work as well?


    1647629005138.png
     

    Trisia

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    "escaping" implies some form of success for me.

    It would have to be "continued their escape attempt" or something along those lines.


    (That said, I don't know if people would mind you using "escape" that much)
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    I would not use 'escape' here. In this case 'escape' strongly implies to me that they were eventually able to evade capture.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And could we use "run away"? I guess we could use it when referring to the suspects, but not the vehicle, right?

    The suspects continue to run away.
    The vehicle continued to run away.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    I would expect suspects to run away only if they were actually running, rather than driving a car, bicycling, riding snowmobiles, etc.
    I don't think a vehicle would normally be said to run away, although if it were parked on a hill without the brake on, it could roll away. If its rolling away caused some kind of incident worthy of a newspaper story, the headline might be "Runaway Car Smashes Farm Stand, Wrecks Pumpkin Display."
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    So if I'm asking about the final result, does only 'escape' work?

    Did the suspects manage to escape? Sadly, they did.
    Did the suspects manage to flee? Sadly, they did.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    Escaping is the result of their fleeing, so in my opinion only the first would work if the question is about the result.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    So if I'm asking about the final result, does only 'escape' work?

    Did the suspects manage to escape? Sadly, they did.
    Did the suspects manage to flee? Sadly, they did.
    The suspect fled the scene only to be captured before they reached the airport. They did fled but they did not escape.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And do all of them work in this context?

    Mom, what do I do if I see a wildboar? Should I escape/flee/run away or lie down and play dead?
     

    anthox

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    And do all of them work in this context?

    Mom, what do I do if I see a wildboar? Should I escape/flee/run away or lie down and play dead?

    I feel like a kid would say "run away". "Flee" is also possible but not really natural for a kid to say here. "Escape" isn't synonymous with the others, it suggests fleeing successfully and getting safely away.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    (Being picky) You should try to escape, flee, run, try to run away (success implied by "away"), or lie down and play dead.
    Like "escape", "run away" implies that you get away from the boar instead of running and being caught.
    If you flee, run, or lie down and play dead for even a moment, you have successfully done those things.
     

    anthox

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    (Being picky) You should try to escape, flee, run, try to run away (success implied by "away"), or lie down and play dead.
    Like "escape", "run away" implies that you get away from the boar instead of running and being caught.
    If you flee, run, or lie down and play dead for even a moment, you have successfully done those things.

    You have a point. I do think that "try to run away" or simply "run" are ultimately better than "run away" here.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And how do I describe what is going on here? Well, I know I could say a police officer is chasing some guy, but how do I put it if I start the sentence with "some guy"?

    Some guy is escaping from a police officer.
    Some guy is fleeing a police officer
    Some guy is running from a police officer.
    Some guy is running away from a police officer.


    Or would it be better to use "trying to" again. If so, which verb after "trying to"?
    1647635779939.png
     

    CaptainZero

    Senior Member
    English, with possible Australianisms
    If he's escaping, that means the cop isn't going to catch him, and you can't know that from the picture, so your first choice is incorrect. The others are OK, but I'd say "fleeing from".
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    (Being picky again)
    He is running (away from the police officer). :)
    He is (running away) (from the police officer). :mad:
    These sentences are written and spoken the same so who can tell that you're not using the first one. ;)
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    He is running (away from the police officer). :)
    He is (running away) (from the police officer). :mad:
    Interesting. I see your point. So if spoken, the stress will be put differently and it'd be clear which version is used. And would both versions work?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Actually, you would stress it differently when saying:
    He's not running toward the police. He's running away from the police.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    And how do I describe what is going on here? Well, I know I could say a police officer is chasing some guy, but how do I put it if I start the sentence with "some guy"?

    Some guy is escaping from a police officer. :cross:; OK with "trying to escape"
    Some guy is fleeing a police officer. :tick:, but it sounds a bit formal to me.
    Some guy is running from a police officer. :tick:
    Some guy is running away from a police officer. :tick:


    Or would it be better to use "trying to" again. If so, which verb after "trying to"?
    View attachment 69231
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Escaping suggests you have previously been under some kind of control, even if that control was only psychological or very brief. So if a policeman pulls up when you're in the middle of a crime, in that sense you are caught, even if you are not physically under control, and you might try to escape. If you successfully flee (move quickly to put distance between you and the officer) then you have escaped the situation and escaped arrest (at least for the moment).

    But you can flee without it being a direct escape.

    "When he heard the police were looking for him he fled the state."

    He went to a different state to avoid the police. But he wasn't being held prisoner in the first state and he wasn't on the verge of being arrested so he didn't escape.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And do all of them work when an escape was successful?

    A: Get me that boy who broke the window now!
    B: Sorry, he escaped/ran away/fled.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    We don't know because we don't know where he was or what the situation was since the window was broken. But in any case, fled is very unlikely.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And would "fled" work in this context? He's talking about two inmates who escaped from a prison.

    "She gave them power tools and they escaped/fled from this prison."

    1648062517254.png
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    You can flee by car. You can run away by car, for that matter. However, choosing "flee" in that particular situation implies the men escaped on foot; if they drove away, then I expect the report would have said so.

    "Escape" has many meanings, some of which overlap with "flee", but when you are talking about breaking out of confinement, only "escape" works.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    You can flee by car. You can run away by car, for that matter.

    When police arrived, the two men ran away.

    So could that mean they ran away on bikes, by car etc? I thought you could run away on foot only, just physically running.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Yes, those two men were never confined. They departed from the area in haste. They didn't need to break out of any restraints.

    If you have to break out of confinement with tools, you are escaping. You don't need power tools to flee.

    Of course, successfully escaping usually involves a breaking out part and a fleeing part, but they are both covered by the word escape in many contexts.

    "The two men escaped from from the Dade Correctional Center last year."

    If they weren't caught, they did two things. They physically escaped the prison, and they successfully fled the area.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    When police arrived, the two men ran away.

    So could that mean they ran away on bikes, by car etc? I thought you could run away on foot only, just physically running.
    Readers will naturally assume they ran away on foot, and this is the usual meaning of "run away", but "run away" can be used in a wider sense that could involve any kind of vehicle. If someone ran away to America, for example, you would not assume they went there on foot.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And which one do I use in a metaphorical context.

    If you do this, you'll have guilty conscious all your life. You just won't be able to escape/flee/run away from guilt and this will kill you.

    Does that example even work?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Use "escape". I have no difficulty imagining a person running away from guilt, but I also imagine guilt catching them up. The thing that they cannot do is escape. I can't say that I like the rest of the wording, but saying that you cannot escape from guilt is fine.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I heard Richard Gere talking about Ukrainian families "fleeing their homes". Does "flee" work better than "escaping" or "running away" in that collocation?
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    'Flee' is the best word in this context. They aren't teenagers 'running away from home', nor people escaping involuntary confinement such as a jail, or patients in a mental hospital, for example.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I heard Richard Gere talking about Ukrainian families "fleeing their homes". Does "flee" work better than "escaping" or "running away" in that collocation?
    They aren't escaping from their homes because no-one is detaining them there. In China however, people may try to escape from their homes because the authorities are not allowing them out due to the Covid lockdown.

    You escape from confinement/imprisonment. You flee from danger/risk.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    One of these women is a rape victim, which took place when she was young. To forget about that, she changed her name. The other woman found out she'd changed her name and asked why, saying "What were you running away from?"

    Now, why was "run away" picked this time? It's clearly a metaphorical use and I thought she should have gone for "escape" like in #38.

    1652561611849.png
     
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    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    And which one do I use in a metaphorical context.

    If you do this, you'll have guilty conscious all your life. You just won't be able to escape/flee/run away from guilt and this will kill you.

    Does that example even work?
    you'll have a guilty conscious conscience

    I would use "escape" here because the person is metaphorically imprisoned by guilt. I suppose the subject can loosely be said to run away from guilt.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    One of these women is a rape victim, which took place when she was young. To forget about that, she changed her name. The other woman found out she'd changed here name and asked why, saying "What were you running away from?"

    Now, why was "run away" picked this time? It's clearly a metaphorical use and I thought she should have gone for "escape" like in #38.
    Not knowing the full context, I would imagine that, before she changed her name, she was figuratively running away from her attacker. Changing her name would allow her to finally escape from her attacker. The friend is asking about before, not after.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    One of these women is a rape vicitm, which took place when she was young. To forget about that, she changed her name. The other woman found out she'd changed here name and asked why, saying "What were you running away from?"

    Now, why "run away" was picked this time? It's clearly a metaphorical use and I thought she should have gone for "escape" like in #38.

    View attachment 71502
    There are several ways of answering this. "Running away" is not the only possible wording, and to say why it was used means making guesses about the speaker's thought processes. These guesses may be wrong.

    At the most obvious level, the expression refers to the action of the person changing her name. This in itself is unlikely to allow the woman to escape her past, but it is part of the process. This makes "running away" a more likely choice than "escaping", but other options are possible, such as "trying to escape".

    "Run away" has negative overtones, whereas "escape" is generally neutral to positive. The speaker's choice of words might suggest she isn't sympathetic. In a different situation, the rape victim might well describe her name change as trying to escape her past.

    There is the added thing that the rape victim appears not to have escaped, because the other woman has found out about
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    And would "What were you fleeing make?" sense?
    There are three negatives associated with this in my opinion.

    (1) Metaphorical running away from problems is an idiom - fleeing is not

    (2) Although "to flee" can be transitive, it is usually not. So, "What were you fleeing from?" would be better.

    (3) "to flee" is somewhat old-fashioned/formal. I occasionally see it in news headlines - especially with reference to refugees from war, but I have never heard it in ordinary conversation.
     
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