I am trying to feel the difference between these words: vacant, unoccupied, spare and free.

If we are talking about locations that aren't controlled by military forces then which of the above words do we use? What word could mean, "available to be freely taken by army forces without intrusion"?

  • Vacant does not mean "available to be taken" even though a vacant hotel room is one that can be made available to a guest who wants a room. Vacant means "unoccupied" or "empty". An army vacates a position, which then becomes vacated. Nov 13 '17 at 18:49
  • You'd be as likely to say the "landmark" (whatever that might mean) was undefended. But we'd need a very complete context to rule on whether any of vacant, unoccupied, spare, free might be credible usages, and even if you could provide that context, I think any answers would be POB Nov 13 '17 at 18:52
  • I've edited the question for it to be better understood. Nov 13 '17 at 18:57

The adjective vacant simply means "empty", not "left empty". To express the idea of "left empty" (and thus, in your example, left unguarded) you need to use the past participle adjectivally, which, with transitive verbs, expresses the idea of "in-the-state-an-agent-put-it-in".

The place had been vacated by the army, and was therefore vulnerable.

Vacated, the place was vulnerable to being taken over by hostile forces.

A vacant room might never have been occupied. A vacated room has had people in it.


As mentioned in comments, "undefended" works better than any of the proposals in your question text.

However, I feel unguarded works best. Somehow undefended is a harder word to say quickly.

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