turn tail

  • timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Yes I think it's necessary. I'd say that "to turn tail" really means only "to turn around" rather than, as the dictionary says, "to run away from a fight..." However, on top of that it is almost always used in the context of running away from a fight and so, in a way, perhaps the idiom should rather be "to turn tail and run" rather than simply "to turn tail".

    I would find it odd if someone said, "when he saw the policeman the robber turned tail" (without adding the "and ran" or "and fled").
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    "To turn tail" suggests that you reverse your position so that your "tail" is facing the direction of danger. So in order to complete the picture "to turn tail and run" makes sense. It may sometimes get abbreviated to just "to turn tail," but it's usually in combination.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    Note that the phrasal verb "to run away" is not the same as the verb "to run". Including "and ran" emphasizes that they retreated quickly. The sense of the phrase would not be wildly different without "and ran", but this is a fairly common collocution. In English we often use two basically similar words together.
     

    Natsuna

    Senior Member
    Japanese / 日本語
    Thanks a lot, everyone!

    Should the definition have been "to turn around from a fight or dangerous situation"?
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    No, the definition is fine the way it is. As I said before, do not confuse the phrasal verb "to run away" with the verb "to run".
     
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