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". Commented Jun 7, 2014 at 11:47
  • You are always modest not to answer directly. Thx a lot! @FumbleFingers
    – Kinzle B
    Commented Jun 7, 2014 at 12:46
  • Oh, by the way. "Turn away" implies a different direction while "turn around" implies an opposite direction, right? @FumbleFingers
    – Kinzle B
    Commented Jun 7, 2014 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. Commented Jun 7, 2014 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
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 15:21

1 Answer 1


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!)

  • At first I thought time flowers might be a typo for thyme, but the text continues The flowers grew to a height of about six feet, their slender stems, like rods of glass, bearing a dozen leaves, the once transparent fronds frosted by the fossilised veins. So I'm guessing they're sunflowers (which turn with the sun, so they're "time-based"). Commented Jun 7, 2014 at 14:34
  • Ballard is a sci-fi writer:-D. It's a good reading if you would download that doc from the hyperlink in my question. @FumbleFingers
    – Kinzle B
    Commented Jun 7, 2014 at 14:39
  • Thank you for the information. I didn't look at the author's name, but then I only know Ballard from 'The Empire of the Sun'. Maybe the book's title would have been more of a clue.
    – Sydney
    Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 2:28
  • True. 'The Empire of the Sun' was one of his few non-scifi works yet the most well-known one. It's a good read too. I like his bizarre fantasies. His fans are even called 'Ballardian'. @SydneyAustraliaESLTeacher
    – Kinzle B
    Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 4:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .