The way was free

salgemma

Member
Italian
Hi all,
I would be grateful if someone could tell if the expression "the way was free" in the following context is an idiom to say something like "there was nobody there" / "the place was deserted".

The context:
It's a documentary about small wild animals that live in cities.
A little owl enters in a lived-in home through an open window, it's searching for a prey (it eats only meat), it lands on a table with some fruits on it.

The narrator says:
The little owl does not shy away from people's proximity. He even ventures into living quarters to hunt.
But this time the way was free. Fruit is not for the little owl.
The lucky rat will make it home tonight.

Thanks
 
  • The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    "The way was free" means that it was safe to go out, that there were no obstacles or dangers keeping the rat from getting home.
     

    Dryan

    Senior Member
    English - Northeastern U.S.
    That phrase doesn't mean anything to me to be honest. Do you think you may have misheard it or that the subtitles were transcribed incorrectly?
     

    salgemma

    Member
    Italian
    Actually, the narrator speaks German, I posted the english subtitles shown on the screen, apparently it is a translation with an invented idiomatic phrase.
     

    salgemma

    Member
    Italian
    Got it. In that case, I bet they meant something along the lines of "The coast was clear."
    In a German -> English context this would make a lot of sense to me.
    Great, the translator had recalled badly the english saying.

    Thank you very much.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It's very unclear which parts are about the owl and which parts are about the rat, especially since the rat is not mentioned in "The context:" and makes a surprise appearance at the end. :)
     

    salgemma

    Member
    Italian
    It's very unclear which parts are about the owl and which parts are about the rat, especially since the rat is not mentioned in "The context:" and makes a surprise appearance at the end. :)
    The rat appears only at the previous line in this scene. :D

    When all the guests have left, Venice seems dead.
    But appearance is deceptive. An old acquaintance is alive and kicking, (my note: this is the rat)
    and goes on ramble again.
    The little owl does not shy away from people's proximity. He even ventures into living quarters to hunt.
    But this time the way was free. Fruit is not for the little owl.
    The lucky rat will make it home tonight.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It sill doesn't make much sense. The owl finding fruit has no relation to the rat making it home.
     

    salgemma

    Member
    Italian
    Hi,
    keep in mind that it's a documentary, I depicted the scene in my first post, people watching the video see fruits on the table and may ask themself: "why doesn't the little owl eat it",
    because it is a flesh-eater not an omnivorous, so the speaker says "the fruit is not ...
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Hi,
    keep in mind that it's a documentary, I depicted the scene in my first post, people watching the video see fruits on the table and may ask themself: "why doesn't the little owl eat it",
    because it is a flesh-eater not an omnivorous, so the speaker says "the fruit is not ...
    That is not the problem. If the owl could eat what was on the table, he wouldn't eat the rat. He can't eat what's on the table, so why is the rat safe?
     

    salgemma

    Member
    Italian
    That is not the problem. If the owl could eat what was on the table, he wouldn't eat the rat. He can't eat what's on the table, so why is the rat safe?
    Hi,
    the little owl fails because the rat is not in that room, that was the reason I thought "the way was free" meant "this room is desert".
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    But this time the way was free. Fruit is not for the little owl.

    In English, putting these two lines together, with "but" as the first word of the first sentence, gives the reader the inescapable idea that the second sentence supplies the explanation for the first. It's the same as saying:

    But this time the way was free, because fruit is not for the little owl.

    Maybe that's not what you meant, but that is what you are saying. The rat is safe because the owl does not eat fruit.
     

    salgemma

    Member
    Italian
    But this time the way was free. Fruit is not for the little owl.

    In English, putting these two lines together, with "but" as the first word of the first sentence, gives the reader the inescapable idea that the second sentence supplies the explanation for the first. It's the same as saying:

    But this time the way was free, because fruit is not for the little owl.

    Maybe that's not what you meant, but that is what you are saying. The rat is safe because the owl does not eat fruit.
    We know that hunters are not always successful in catching their preys (this would explain the phrase "but this time"), won't the full sentence be intended as "this time the little owl fails because the prey isn't there. It can't settle for fruit that is there because it's indigestible by it"?
     
    Last edited:

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    In "The way was free", the word "way" means "path; route" and the word "free" means "clear of any obstacles".

    So "the way was free" means "the route had no obstacles in it". That is the only thing it can mean. It does not say whose route.

    It is not an idiom. It has no other meaning. It just uses a specific meaning of "way" and "free".
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Maybe that's not what you meant, but that is what you are saying. The rat is safe because the owl does not eat fruit.
    I tried to ask if the rat has been mentioned yet and the answer seemed to be "no" so whatever that sentence means, it should be about the owl.
     

    salgemma

    Member
    Italian
    In "The way was free", the word "way" means "path; route" and the word "free" means "clear of any obstacles".

    So "the way was free" means "the route had no obstacles in it". That is the only thing it can mean. It does not say whose route.

    It is not an idiom. It has no other meaning. It just uses a specific meaning of "way" and "free".
    Yes, thanks, as Dryan has posted before, the documentary script writer probably had wrongly recalled the expression "the coast was clear".
    All of you native speaking agree that "the way was free" isn't an idiom, so it isn't, I got my answer.
    Thread resumed because Myridon and Kentix had some doubts about the construction of the whole sentence, unfortunately I can't argue much about that.

    Thanks again to all.
     
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