Can somebody explain clearly what is the difference between 'draw' and 'pull'. In the excerpt below, if I change 'drew back' to 'pull back', Google gives different meanings. If I change 'pull together' to 'draw together' Google translates them the same. Such verbs come across in any text very often. What do I need to know when I can replace these verbs without losing meaning and when I can't? I have learned to translate them, but I can hardly use them correctly in English.

Canute drew his hand back from the latch as though it were red hot. He was not the kind of man to make a good eavesdropper, and he wished he had knocked sooner. He pulled himself together and struck the door like a battering ram. Mary jumped and opened it with a screech.

Here is the other example. What does 'drawing out' mean or would 'pulling out' mean? By the way I can 't find a suitable translation for 'power of drawing out the social side'. What does it mean?

But he was not a social man by nature and had not the power of drawing out the social side of other people.

On the Divide by Willa Cather

  • Consider this: It is implied it was easy to withdraw his hand, but harder to pull himself together (gather his resolve to act). Also try exchanging one word for the other and rereading it.
    – user19179
    Mar 23, 2020 at 18:16

2 Answers 2


'draw' implies action with little or no resistance.
'pull' is to apply force (toward ones' self), implying it takes effort.

Similar in meaning. The context in which they are used together would define the difference. "You can draw your own conclusions here, if you can manage to pull the notion of their complexity from your thoughts"

  • What would you say about phrasal verbs using these verbs?
    – Vitaly
    Mar 23, 2020 at 15:26
  • This is very context dependent. I agree in OP's example if you said Canute "pulled his hand back" it would imply there was some resistance to that action (and "drew his hand back" doesn't imply that). But when you "draw wire" (stretch out a metal to form it into a wire) you would expect there to be substantial resistance.
    – The Photon
    Mar 23, 2020 at 15:34
  • @ThePhoton Certainly a good example of an exception to the rule. I will look for the origin to that.
    – user19179
    Mar 24, 2020 at 0:28
  • @Vitaly I would need to see an example first. I am not that sharp minded.
    – user19179
    Mar 24, 2020 at 0:30

I agree with the other answer saying that in the case of drawing back his hand, the use of draw implies less effort than would pull. But this is very context dependent, and I think in your other example, using draw implies effort.

By the way I can 't find a suitable translation for 'power of drawing out the social side'. What does it mean?

Here, power means ability. And drawing out something from other people means leading or convincing them to do something. So the overall meaning is that "he" was not capable of leading other people to act sociably.

You probably know some people who can start a conversation with any stranger, even a bad-tempered one, and quickly convince the stranger to act friendly toward them. The quoted sentence is saying that "he" isn't one of those people.

In this case I'd say that the use of the term draw is meant to imply some effort is involved in this process (as in drawing wire). It implies that the other person isn't initially inclined to act sociably. In this case pull couldn't be substituted without breaking the idiom.

For the most part, draw as a synonym for pull is obsolete in today's English and is only used in a few idiomatic cases, rather than as a word that can be used wherever its meaning fits.

  • I understand in general. Here's just what idiom do you mean from your words: "In this case pull couldn't be substituted without breaking the idiom."?
    – Vitaly
    Mar 23, 2020 at 16:10
  • @Vitaly, It means that "draw [something] out of someone" is an idiom, and we always use draw in this idiom and not pull.
    – The Photon
    Mar 23, 2020 at 16:25

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