flee / escape

Chasint

Senior Member
English - England
And does this example work with "from"?

"When he heard the police were looking for him, he fled from the state."
Kentix's original version "fled the state", is an excellent example of the transitive use of "flee". :) I would not add "from".

We flee from war, but we flee a state that oppresses us.

I have not yet worked out the reason for this difference. Maybe the answer will come to me later.

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Edit

I think it is that we flee a fixed situation, but we flee from an activity or antagonist, e.g.

He fled from the police, and then fled the country. :tick:

This not a cast-iron rule (there are few of those in English) but it is a good guide in my opinion.
 
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  • zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    This makes "running away" a more likely choice than "escaping", but other options are possible, such as "trying to escape".

    And if we used "trying to escape" in that rape context, would either work?

    What were you trying to escape?
    What were you trying to escape from?
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    And if we used "trying to escape" in that rape context, would either work?

    What were you trying to escape?
    What were you trying to escape from?
    I disagree with Uncle Jack. Although both these sentences are perfect English, I don't understand how they fit the context.

    Uncle Jack, what might the woman say in reply to each of the above questions?
     

    tracer2

    Senior Member
    US 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.
    I agree......

    My canary escaped from his cage last night.:tick:

    My canary fled from his cage last night. ?:cross:?
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I agree......

    My canary escaped from his cage last night.:tick:

    My canary fled from his cage last night. ?:cross:?
    The second of these is interesting. If we invent two (unlikely) scenarios, we can make sense of it - and of a similar sentence that excludes "from".

    1. My canary has a new cage. It is robotic, and when the cage thinks it is time for the canary to go to bed it follows him around playing the message "Bedtime for Bobby!". I tried it out last night. My canary fled from his cage! Luckily the cage cannot fly, so Bobby was able to escape.

    2. My canary's cage is made of bamboo. It caught fire while I was out of the room. Luckily the cage door was open so, when I returned, my canary had fled his cage and had escaped into the kitchen.
     
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    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Luckily the cage door was open so, when I returned, my canary had fled his cage and had escaped into the kitchen.
    1. Great example. It helps to make the difference clearer. Using "run away" would never be used with birds as they would use no legs, would it? Even if we used "run away" figuratively like in that rape context, it's just not possible it use it, is it? Or can you think of any scenario where "run away" could work?


    2. I looked 'flee' up in a Pol-Eng dictionary and found this example. Obviously no context given and non-natives might think it means the same thing as "escape" and "run away". (In Polish we have one verb for yours three). Now, could you please tell me what context would come to your mind hearing it?

    1652598632431.png
     
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    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    1. Well a chicken could run away. In fact I think many birds can run (I know that some only hop), I'm not sure about canaries as I have never had any dealings with one. However, it is most likely that a canary would fly away.

    2. The only context that comes to mind when seeing the sentence "It will be hard for them to flee this time, sir" is that of a 19th-century author, wielding a quill pen and writing a thrilling maritime story about pirates. :D

    1652609571582.png
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Did Charles Dickens write thrilling maritime stories about pirates? Were you thinking of this 19th century author, perhaps?
    1652610242887.png

    I think he's using a steel nib rather than a quill pen, though. :)

    Now, could you please tell me what context would come to your mind hearing it?
    There is an unspoken "from us": It will be hard for them to flee from us this time.

    In modern English, I think the intended meaning is "escape" rather than simply running away. It does not really matter whether or not they run away, so long as we capture them eventually. In this way, I suppose "flee" combines elements of both words, but as others have said, it is not used much in modern English.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Did Charles Dickens write thrilling maritime stories about pirates? ...

    Indeed he did! Will the following convince you? :p

    Holiday Romance by Charles Dickens: Part I
    the colonel, combining with his lawless pursuit (he is a pirate), suggested an attack with fireworks. This, however, from motives of

    The Perils of Certain English Prisoners by Charles Dickens
    Island was considered a good post of observation against the pirates, both by land and sea; neither the pirate ship nor yet her boats had been

    A Child's History of England by Charles Dickens: Ch. 3 - The Good ...
    way - among them a fierce pirate of the name of HASTINGS, who had ... built large ships nevertheless, with which to pursue the pirates on

    Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: Chapter 1
    The man was limping on towards this latter, as if he were the pirate come to life, and come down, and going back to hook himself up again.

    Reprinted Pieces by Charles Dickens: Our School
    ... by the hand that now chronicles these recollections - in which his father figured as a Pirate, and was shot for a voluminous catalogue of atrocities: ...

    Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: Chapter 2
    If I slept at all that night, it was only to imagine myself drifting down the river on a strong spring-tide, to the Hulks; a ghostly pirate calling out to ...
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And how do I understand "escape" used as a key in a keyboard? It doesn't make much sense to me, to be honest. How do you sense it? What if someone came up with an idea of calling it 'flee'?
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    And how do I understand "escape" used as a key in a keyboard? It doesn't make much sense to me, to be honest. How do you sense it? What if someone came up with an idea of calling it 'flee'?
    "To flee" implies physical motion away from danger. "To escape" implies extricating oneself from difficulty or imprisonment. It does not always require physical motion.

    Why “escape”? Bemer could have used another word — say, “interrupt” — but he opted for “ESC,” a tiny monument to his own angst. Bemer was a worrier. In the 1970s, he began warning about the Y2K bug, explaining to Richard Nixon’s advisers the computer disaster that could occur in the year 2000. Today, with our relatively stable computers, few of us need the panic button. But Bob Frankston, a pioneering programmer, says he still uses the ESC key. “There’s something nice about having a get-me-the-hell-out-of-here key.”
    The History of the Escape Key
    Suppose a computer program is stuck in a loop. The programmer does not want to have to switch the computer off and then on again. The Escape key can be used to get out of the infinite loop and back to normal operation.
     
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    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    You mentioned earlier "flee" is not used in everyday conversational language. So for sure this Oxford example sounds like a news report line, doesn't it?

    The driver fled the scene of the accident.

    Now, how could we say the same thing in casual conversation? I guess "run away" sounds better, doesn't it? Or does either sound natural?

    Can you imagine the driver got out of the car and escaped?
    Can you imagine the driver got out of the car and ran away?
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Afterthought

    A Flee button would perhaps sound a siren, thus alerting everyone in the building that there was a fire or a bombing raid, and they should immediately run to safety.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You mentioned earlier "flee" is not used in everyday conversational language. So for sure this Oxford example sounds like a news report line, doesn't it?

    The driver fled the scene of the accident.
    That sounds like a news clip or part of a police report.

    Now, how could we say the same thing in casual conversation? I guess "run away" sounds better, doesn't it? Or does either sound natural?

    (1) Can you imagine the driver got out of the car and escaped?
    (2) Can you imagine the driver got out of the car and ran away?

    For (1) I imagine that the car was on fire, or that the driver was being held hostage by a passenger. The victim managed to get out of the car and escape from being injured by the fire or the assailant.

    For (2) I imagine that the police stopped the car. A suspect got out of the car and ran away from the police.
     
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    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And does this Oxford example also sound formal, like a news clip?

    1652614531089.png


    I guess there could have been, say, a fire in the building, but could she have been, say, laughed at by classmates and thus ran out of the place?
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    She burst into tears and fled, sounds like a line from a romantic novel. It is written English - no-one would say it in conversation. It is also somewhat old-fashioned.
    You see, that's why dictionaries introduce a lot of confusion sometimes. It'd be enough to add "litarary" in that dictionary entry and I would not be confused. Seeing that entry non-natives think it sounds like everyday language.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You see, that's why dictionaries introduce a lot of confusion sometimes. It'd be enough to add "litarary" in that dictionary entry and I would not be confused. Seeing that entry non-natives think it sounds like everyday language.
    The problem is that everyday language is very rarely captured in textual form. We chat away, and unless someone makes an audio recording and then transcribes the conversation and publishes it somewhere, dictionaries won't be able to quote it.

    Maybe you should look for some conversational dictionaries, for instance a quick search throws up the following: Conversational-American-English

    Another approach is to watch videos - preferably with subtitles - of people being interviewed in the street. Or of course you can watch soap operas and other fictional programmes.
     
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    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The problem is that everyday language is very rarely captured in textual form. We chat away, and unless someone makes an audio recording and then transcribes the conversation and publishes it somewhere, dictionaries won't be able to quote it.
    ...
    As an example, I used written English above. In spoken English, I might have said:

    "The thing is, nobody records everyday English. We just chat away and nobody's going to record it and publish it. If it's not written down somewhere, dictionaries won't know about it."
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    And how do I understand "escape" used as a key in a keyboard? It doesn't make much sense to me, to be honest. How do you sense it? What if someone came up with an idea of calling it 'flee'?
    To flee is to move physically away from a perceived danger, not necessarily with a specific destination in mind. The overriding emphasis is "away" (as quickly as possible).

    In the case of the Escape key that makes no sense. There is no danger and nothing is moving physically. Standard computer operations are linear. You take step A and it leads to condition B. Think of each condition as a box. Normally from there you would take step C and move to box D (or D2 or D3 or D4...). You proceed by moving forward. But if you find you don't want to be in box B and realize that was not the right step to take, you can escape that box, with the Escape key. It's basically the operational equivalent of the Backspace key when typing text. It takes a step backward in the operation, without leaving a trace you ever stepped forward into that box B.

    Did Charles Dickens write thrilling maritime stories about pirates?
    Maybe it was Charles Dikkens.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    To flee is to move physically away from a perceived danger, not necessarily with a specific destination in mind. The overriding emphasis is "away" (as quickly as possible).

    In the case of the Escape key that makes no sense. There is no danger and nothing is moving physically. Standard computer operations are linear. You take step A and it leads to condition B. Think of each condition as a box. Normally from there you would take step C and move to box D (or D2 or D3 or D4...). You proceed by moving forward. But if you find you don't want to be in box B and realize that was not the right step to take, you can escape that box, with the Escape key. It's basically the operational equivalent of the Backspace key when typing text. It takes a step backward in the operation, without leaving a trace you ever stepped forward into that box B.
    Great expectations explanations there kentix!

    :D :D
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And do these work? This is what we could say figuratively in Polish.

    Tom, I hate it when you run away from/escape from your responsibilites. Just try to act like a grown up.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    And how do I understand this? Can you explain it in more detail?
    John was accused of murder. He escaped a life sentence by pleading insanity. (In other words, he never received a life sentence.)

    John was accused of murder. He fled from the courtroom. (He ran)
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And does either work in this kind of figurative context?

    A: How’s Ashely?
    B: I hear she escaped from John a week after they got married but have no idea why.
    B: I hear she ran away from John a week after they got married but have no idea why.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    And does either work in this kind of figurative context?

    A: How’s Ashely?
    B: I hear she escaped from John a week after they got married but have no idea why.
    B: I hear she ran away from John a week after they got married but have no idea why.
    I hear she escaped from John (This implies that John was ill-treating her)

    I hear she ran away from John (This says nothing about the reason unless we have further context. Maybe she stole all his gold and then ran away. Maybe she changed her mind about the wedding and ran away with her ex-boyfriend)

    (Note spelling of Ashley)
    __________________________________

    A: How’s Ashley?
    B: I hear she escaped from John a week after they got married. (if you use "escape" then you must have some idea why)
    A: Wow! What was he doing to her? Did he lock her up?

    A: How’s Ashley?
    B: I hear she ran away from John a week after they got married but have no idea why.
    A: There must have been a reason. Do you really have no idea at all?
    B: Well, it could be because ...
     
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    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I hear she escaped from John (This implies that John was ill-treating her)
    Does 'escape' connotate with negative contexts only?



    And when we're speaking of children fleeing their homes, does "escape" imply they were ill-treated, while with "run away" there might have been any reason, like the parents not accepting their boyfriend/girlfriend?

    1. I hear John's daughter escaped last night.
    2. I hear John's daughter ran away last night.
     
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    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Does 'escape' connotate with negative contexts only?
    Yes. I cannot think of an exception.
    And when we're speaking of children fleeing their homes, does "escape" imply they were ill-treated, while with "run away" there might have been any reason, like the parents not accepting their boyfriend/girlfriend?

    I hear John's daughter escaped last night.
    I hear John's daughter ran away last night.
    1. Ill-treated or, more likely, imprisoned.

    2. Yes.

    P.S. It will help if you number your sample sentences - that way we don't have to repeat them in the answer :)
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And coming back to this picture, which one do you prefer?

    I saw some guy trying to escape from a police officer.
    I saw some guy trying to run away from a police officer.


    1652629441748.png
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    To me, he is actually running away, not trying to run away.
    If I were simply describing the picture, I'd say I saw some guy running away from a police officer.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    And coming back to this picture, which one do you prefer?

    I saw some guy trying to escape from a police officer.
    I saw some guy trying to run away from a police officer.

    View attachment 71535
    I saw some guy trying to escape from a police officer.(This does not describe the picture accurately - If the police officer had already arrested him, then he might be struggling in order to escape)

    Trying to escape
    1652630275096.png


    I saw some guy trying to run away from a police officer. :thumbsdown: (He is not "trying" to run away. He "is" running away!)

    Running away
    1652630320689.png


    (cross-posted with Roxxxannne - we agree)
     
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    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Don't you think "flee" or "run away" would sound better in this New York Times article rather than "escape"? After all, those Ukrainines weren't held hostage or imprisoned by anyone.

    1652630587874.png
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Don't you think "flee" or "run away" would sound better in this New York Times article rather than "escape"? After all, those Ukrainines weren't held hostage or imprisoned by anyone.

    View attachment 71538
    At this point, I am concerned that we may get into a repetitive loop. May I suggest that you review the thread so far and then give us reasons that you think they aren't escaping?

    P.S. I realise this is difficult if you do not have separate words for these concepts in your native language.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    May I suggest that you review the thread so far and then give us reasons that you think they aren't escaping?
    I believe all these quotes say that you escape from imprisonment/confinement, which is not the case in the Ukrainians crisis. I guess they are fleeing from danger, aren't they?

    Escape involves getting away from some form of captivity or imprisonment
    'escape' strongly implies to me that they were eventually able to evade capture.
    Escaping suggests you have previously been under some kind of control,
    Whenever confinement or captivity is involved, use "escape".
     
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    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    There are always subtle shades of meaning. You escape from confinement. You flee from danger. Are the Russians dangerous? Yes. So flee fits. Are they (or at least were they originally) trying to take control of all of Ukraine. Apparently. In that sense, Ukraine is a container they were trying to get full control of. So the people trying to get out of that container are attempting to escape. If the Russians had successfully taken control of Ukraine (or if they do in the future or if it's conceived as a real possibility), then to leave they will need to escape.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I made this up. Does it sound natural? Say I'm giving advice to someone who's planning to run away from home.

    Do you really think running away will help you escape from your current problems?
     

    tracer2

    Senior Member
    US English
    There are always subtle shades of meaning. You escape from confinement. You flee from danger.
    The startling and apparently endless contrasts and shades of meaning within the English verbal system - the ultimate source of the strength and surprising beauty of English - is exemplified by this escape/flee dichotomy.

    The fusion of the Germanic (flee) and the Romance (escape) leads to an exactness of thought and finesse that simply cannot be equaled, let alone surpassed, by any other language.
     
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