flee / escape

zaffy

Senior Member
Polish
And say someone's giving advice to a woman who's going to terminate her pregancy. Does either sound natural?

Please, don't do it. You'll never be able to escape the guilt.
Please, don't do it. You'll never be able to run away from the guilt.
 
  • elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    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.
    Yes - There are many synonyms in English. One might wish to consider the shades of meaning amongst the following: dodge, elude, evade, abscond, bolt, bail out, cut and run, cut loose, fly the coop, make a getaway, run off, and many more.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And say someone keeps moving their house and changing their job so as not to get recognised by anyone for some reason and I'd like to know why they're doing it . I guess I might say both of these, couldn't I?

    Tom, what are you running away from?
    Tom, what are you trying to escape from?
     

    TheIntricateWillows

    Member
    English - USA
    And say someone keeps moving their house and changing their job so as not to get recognised by anyone for some reason and I'd like to know why they're doing it . I guess I might say both of these, couldn't I?

    Tom, what are you running away from?
    Tom, what are you trying to escape from?
    Yes, both of those have the same meaning and can be used.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    And say someone's giving advice to a woman who's going to terminate her pregancy. Does either sound natural?

    Please, don't do it. You'll never be able to escape the guilt.
    Please, don't do it. You'll never be able to run away from the guilt.
    "Run away from" makes little sense in the context. I thought we had made it clear in this thread that "run away from" is an ongoing action. This is of little consequence when it comes to things like guilt. The important thing is to finally be free of it, and for this you need "escape". You can run away all you like, but if you cannot escape, the guilt will still haunt you.

    Note that "trying to escape", unlike "escape" on its own, also indicates an ongoing action. While "escape" can, within a limited context, be ongoing, it isn't actually escaping unless the person is ultimately able to break free.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    "Run away from" makes little sense in the context. I thought we had made it clear in this thread that "run away from" is an ongoing action.

    I was confused by #18 where it was said "run away" implies a success like "escape".
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I was confused by #18 where it was said "run away" implies a success like "escape".
    Ah. There is a difficulty when the thing you are running away from can run faster than you can. If this is the case, although you are running, you aren't actually running away, because the distance between you is getting less.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    "run away from" is an ongoing action. The important thing is to finally be free of it, and for this you need "escape"

    So I believe this works, doesn't it?

    I was running away from the guilt for a few years, but luckily I finally escaped it when Ashley forgave me.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    So I believe this works, doesn't it?

    I was running away from the guilt for a few years, but luckily I finally escaped it when Ashley forgave me.
    "Run away from" is really the wrong metaphor with guilt, since it is inside of a person (which is why you can never escape from it). "Hide from" might work as a metaphor, but "suppress" is better.

    "Escape" doesn't really work either. You can talk about never escaping the guilt (although kentix' "live with" is probably more usual), but if you want to describe the opposite, you probably need something like "overcome".
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And speaking of the Ukrainians fleeing their homes, would "run away" make sense or does it not make sense as it implies no particular reason?

    Currently lots of Ukrainians are running away to neigbouring Poland.
     
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    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    "Run away" has negative associations, which "flee" does not, and this is probably the main reason why "flee" is used instead of "run away" in the context of Ukrainian people trying to escape the fighting.

    Also, if you say "run away from X" (which I realise you do not in post #112, but I mention this in case it arises), then X is the thing that scares the person who is running away, the thing that they want to avoid or escape, and it would make little sense to say "running away from their homes", since their homes are not the reason for their running away. It would be fine (bar the negative associations) to say that people were running away from the fighting, or from the war zone, and your use of "to" rather than "from" would also be fine if "running away" could be used.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I see there are so many nuances, that is, whether we mention "from what" or "from where" or don't mention any of those like in the first example. Do my choices work?


    1. Thousands of Ukrainans have fled/escaped to neighbouring Poland.

    2. Thousands of Ukrainans have escaped/ran away/fled from the the war zone to neighbouring Poland.

    3. Thousands of Ukrainans have fled their homes to neighbouring Poland.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    (1) is fine.
    With (2), "ran away" would be avoided because of its negative associations, but apart from that they are fine.
    (3) is fine.

    I have no idea whether "flee" is used more transitively ("fled their homes") or intransitively ("fled from their homes"). There is some discussion of this in post #51. I think Chasint is right that we flee from a person but we flee a place or situation. However, we are also used to "from" and "to" being used in pairs, so adding "to neighbouring Poland" makes "from the war zone" more likely.

    I think that "escape" in (2) probably needs "from". They have escaped to Poland is the important message, rather than they have escaped the war zone, which I don't think would be said as a main clause. It is fine to add "from the war zone" to "they have escaped to Poland".
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And which verb would you use in conversational English? Say a husband is watching a docummentary showing refugees, including small children. His wife comes into the room, takes a look at those poor people and asks "What's going on?"
    Which verb would the husband pick to describe the suituation? I know "flee" describes it best but it's not conversatinal English. Would he pick "escape"?

    A: What's going on? Who are all these people?
    B: Poor Ukrainians escaping to neigbouring Poland.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    We are used to "flee" in this situation from news reports, so it may well be used in ordinary conversation. I think it depends on whether you want to focus more on where they are coming from or where they are going to. Fleeing their homes/the war zone or escaping to Poland.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    One more thing confuses me about "flee". I guess someone fleeing is trying to move away from danger and is the victim by nature, not a villain, compared to say a thief trying to "run away/escape". So why is "flee" used about all those villains in YT videos. For example here:


    1652702865833.png
     

    tracer2

    Senior Member
    US English
    To my way of thinking, "flee" can also be used when you want to give your writing a "slant" indicating "furtiveness" or "surreptitious" action........something "escape" doesn't seem to have to the same degree.
    Strangely, the past tense, "fled" loses this furtiveness...."they fled" doesn't sound as desperate as "they flee"...

    It's in the phonetics, I suspect. "fled" rhymes too nicely with the metal "lead"....heavy and slow to react, whereas "flee" rhymes nicely with "scream".
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    One more thing confuses me about "flee". I guess someone fleeing is trying to move away from danger and is the victim by nature, not a villain, compared to say a thief trying to "run away/escape". So why is "flee" used about all those villains in YT videos. For example here:


    View attachment 71562
    Although "run away" might have negative overtones, this does not mean that "flee" has positive ones. A fugitive might flee from justice, for example, and the fact that he flees tends to make us think badly of him.

    "Flee" might also sound more official. "Run away" is an expression learnt very early in life - children do a lot of running away from things - and some people might think it does not sound formal enough in more serious situations.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    "Flee" might also sound more official. "Run away" is an expression learnt very early in life - children do a lot of running away from things - and some people might think it does not sound formal enough in more serious situations.
    :thumbsup:

    Small children "run away from home" (then come back when they get hungry).

    When a wanted criminal does the same thing it sounds a little too cute.

    On the other hand, if you just use "run", that's often very literal.

    "When they came to arrest him he ran from the police."

    That means he started running to try to evade them. You'll also hear the phrase "he fled on foot".
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Say I'm taking about the robbery I experienced a few years ago. I know I would use the first version when talking to my friends. But if it was a news report about some robbery, could they use the second example?

    By the time the security guards arrived, the robbers had run away.
    By the time the security guards arrived, the robbers had fled.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Yes, the second would be suitable in journalism.

    For the first, I think in the U.S. you're more likely to hear something like:

    By the time the security guards got there, the robbers had already left/taken off.
     

    Pablo Peligroso

    Senior Member
    I pity the guy/lady that asked this question. I have no problem with any of your fine points, dear people. You know your English and can articulate it. In reality, though, this is overkill of a simple comparison. In practical English these two terms are virtually the same. Yes, there are "matices" but come on, let's not bury practical English with mile deep fine points that leave people more confused than before.

    If you fled 1973 Chile, you also escaped. What's the difference when the ideas are so similar?
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The difference is there's a difference in many cases. Telling someone that any time you see flee you can substitute escape or run away (and three-way vice versa) is terrible advice, because it's just not true.

    I can't flee from my prison cell if the door is locked. I first have to escape from my cell and then I can flee from the prison. I can escape from handcuffs but I can't flee from handcuffs. And I can't run away from handcuffs. I can run away from home if I'm mad at my parents but I don't have to escape, because I'm not locked inside. And fleeing is not an apt word, because, first, there is probably no actual danger and second, it's probably not pursuing me, either actively or as a consequence of events. (You can flee a pursuer actively looking for you or you can flee a war zone and the war zone can expand and so come closer to you again and put you back in danger. Conversely, if you run away from home the home is not going to chase you or expand to come near you again.) Run away and flee are much closer in meaning and use than either is to escape. Flee doesn't include any sense of an outcome, nor does run away. Escape does. It indicates a change in condition - you were under control in some way and now you're not.

    So, yes, saying escape and flee are related ideas is true. But that's uselessly vague information for writing meaningful, idiomatic, real-world sentences. The actual choice depends on context.
     
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