Look at the following sentences.

  1. Many people fled the city to escape the fighting.

  2. Refugees fled from the city.

  3. They fled the country in 1987.

  4. The family fled from Nazi Germany to Britain in 1936.

I am puzzled by the term flee. As you can see that sometimes flee is followed by no preposition whereas sometimes it is followed by a preposition as above.

How to know that it will and will not be followed by a preposition?

Kindly elaborate it.

  • 1
    Good one. In some cases the word from can easily be left out - you can flee a country or flee from a country - but in other cases leaving it out makes it sound more unnatural. You can flee from danger but not flee danger. (Unless you can, and it's just me.)
    – Mr Lister
    Feb 22, 2017 at 10:46
  • That was my feeling too, but I'm not a native speaker.
    – Rene
    Feb 22, 2017 at 11:16
  • 3
    We can flee to a (safe) place and flee from a (dangerous) place or flee a (dangerous) place. We don't normally say that we flee a dangerous animal; we tend to flee from them. Feb 22, 2017 at 11:40
  • 2
    @TRomano - Shame that's a comment instead of an answer, now that this has made the Hot Questions List
    – J.R.
    Feb 22, 2017 at 18:52
  • old thread but I'm still seeking answers. It "feels" like using "from" puts the emphasis on the thing you escape, while eliminating it puts the emphasis on the act of fleeing.
    – Elby Cloud
    Apr 27, 2019 at 11:22

3 Answers 3



implicitly means to move away from something, moving "away" is implied.

fled the city
fled from the city

have the same meaning, from is not necessary and some might consider it redundant, but both are correct. However, in the case of

fled to the city

the preposition to must be there to mean movement "towards", otherwise it will have the the opposite meaning as in the first sentence.

  • 2
    Is the city in these examples the place you are leaving or the danger you are trying to escape? I have the feeling that "to flee from" more goes towards poining out the danger you are escaping and "to flee something" is more the place you are leaving. Is it correct to say: "To flee from the wolves" or "To flee the wolves"?
    – Rene
    Feb 22, 2017 at 10:55
  • "To flee from the wolves" = "To flee the wolves" are equivalent and interchangeable.
    – Peter
    Feb 22, 2017 at 18:30

You use the intransitive form (flee from) when it means to run away from a place or situation of danger, like the last sentence

. . . fled from Nazi Germany. . .

You use the transitive form (flee + object) when it means to run away from someone or something, like the third sentence

. . . fled the country . . .

More examples are here

  • I'm, actually, not getting why sometimes, preposition is used and sometimes it is not used. Why is this happening in language? Feb 22, 2017 at 11:18
  • Why do we leave out 'preposition'? Is there any logica behind it? Feb 22, 2017 at 11:19
  • 1
    @Idon'tknowwhoIam. Don't waste your time pondering it. This doesn't happen in all verbs in English and the language is not what to be blamed. All you can do is learn a new thing everytime you come accross an issue like this :)
    – user178049
    Feb 22, 2017 at 11:23
  • The last sentence is also a from ... to construction, which I think makes the "from" required, even if it would normally be left out.
    – Bobson
    Feb 22, 2017 at 15:53
  • 2
    They aren't quite interchangeable - if you are in France in 1940, you can "flee from Nazi Germany", but I wouldn't say you can "Flee Nazi Germany" because you are not in Germany, you are in France. "Free from" can specify the physical location you are leaving, while "flee" cannot, but both can specify the thing you are fleeing from. The acid test here is whether can swap "Nazi Germany" (or whatever else you are fleeing from) for either "An angry bear" or "New York" and the sentence still makes perfect sense. If you can't replace it with both, tread carefully
    – Jon Story
    Feb 22, 2017 at 17:18

Flee can be a transitive or an intransitive verb.

As an intransitive verb the meaning is to run away, and it can be followed by many different prepositions:

  • They fled from the city.
  • They fled to the city (from somewhere else).
  • They fled at night.
  • They fled on foot.
  • They fled by car.
  • They fled over the mountains.
  • They fled northwards.
  • etc.

As a transitive verb, the meaning is to run away from + [object], without a preposition: for example

  • They fled the city.
  • They fled the country.
  • They fled the fighting.
  • etc.

So "flee + noun" and "flee from + noun" are both correct, and have the same meaning.


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