The advancing throng was almost too far away to be visible, but even as Axel watched, his expression aloof yet observant, it came perceptibly nearer, the vanguard of an immense rabble appearing from below the horizon. At last, as the daylight began to fade, the front edge of the throng reached the crest of the first swell below the horizon, and Axel turned from the terrace and walked down among the time flowers.

Source: Ballard, J G - The Garden Of Time

I was wondering how Axel could turn from the terrace.

I know the following two examples are easy to understand:

He turned back to his work.
He turned away and looked out of the window.

But I cannot make sense of "turn from".

  • 3
    In almost all contexts (certainly this one), to turn from something is equivalent to turn away from it, which you already understand. That includes figurative contexts where what shifts is someone's attention ("He turned [away] from his work and looked at me"). If what's turned from is a path/route (in this case, the terrace Axel is walking along), it can also be expressed as "We turned off the main road into the residential area". – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 7 '14 at 11:47
  • You are always modest not to answer directly. Thx a lot! @FumbleFingers – Kinzle B Jun 7 '14 at 12:46
  • Oh, by the way. "Turn away" implies a different direction while "turn around" implies an opposite direction, right? @FumbleFingers – Kinzle B Jun 7 '14 at 13:52
  • @ Zhanlong: There are some usages (such as "He turned to drink") where the particular preposition is firmly established by idiomatic precedent. But in more general contexts you'll often find there are several alternatives - which don't always have a single clearly distinct significance. So away/around may often indicate different/opposite direction, but sometimes it's just that away implies from [whatever you were doing/where you were heading], where around might imply towards [your new direction/target]. So they emphasise either the "previous" or "new" focus. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 7 '14 at 14:27
  • @FumbleFingers Come to think of it. When could "away" in "verb away from" be omitted? I guess it's not licensed to every verb. – Kinzle B Mar 19 '16 at 15:21

It means 'He stopped walking in one direction (along the terrace) and started walking in another direction (among the time flowers)'. The opposite is 'turned to', 'turned onto' or 'turned toward(s)'.

My advice to my students is 'don't worry about every word unless it's really important for the meaning'. Here, it is clear that he was walking in one place, then he was walking in another place. (I am more interested in where and what 'time flowers are!)

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