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I'd like to understand in what cases the meanings of the phrases "to withdraw someone" and "to recall someone" overlap.
For this purpose I prepared some examples from dictionaries.


ahdictionary.com:

to withdraw — to cause to leave or return:
(1) The government withdrew its diplomats from the capital.

my variant:
(2) The government recalled its diplomats from the capital.

Is (2) correct?
If not, then why not?
If it is, then what's the difference between (1) and (2)?


oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com:

to recall — to order somebody to return:
(3) Both countries recalled their ambassadors.

my variant:
(4) Both countries withdrew their ambassadors.

Is (4) correct?
If not, then why not?
If it is, then what's the difference between (3) and (4)?


oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com:

to recall — to order somebody to return:
(5) He was recalled to military duty.

my variant:
(6) He was withdrawn to military duty.

Is (6) correct?
If not, then why not?
If it is, then what's the difference between (5) and (6)?

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  • A government recalls diplomatic personnel. A company recalls products. The athletes withdrew from the competition. He withdrew his application for a scholarship. The ambassadors withdrew from the conference. This is usual usage. The tanks were withdrawn from the battlefield by the generals. withdraw diplomats is ok, recalled is better.
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 26 at 0:45
  • See ell.stackexchange.com/a/349075/138287. You don't "withdraw someone to ______"; transitive use of "withdraw" only works with "from," as far as I can think. You've done a lot of dictionary research. Learner's dictionaries are great as a starting point, but if you want to be more rigorous, I suggest following up with something like Merriam-Webster. Meanwhile, the first two substitutions work fine. Commented Feb 26 at 2:24
  • @AndyBonner Are the following examples of "to withdraw someone to somewhere" incorrect: "to withdraw a diplomat to his home country" or "to withdraw soldiers to a new position"? Thanks.
    – Loviii
    Commented Feb 26 at 3:27
  • Hm, I'm not sure whether my perception is official, but no, I wouldn't use them. The original example of "soldier withdrawn to military duty" is especially impractical, because even any valid use of "withdraw to" has an implied "from." "The monks withdrew to their monastery" —from the busy city. It often implies withdrawing from a stressful or problematic situation into a safer or more solitary one. So "withdrawing" from civilian life into active duty is counter to the usual connotations. Commented Feb 26 at 15:00

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Note that withdraw and recall can have a subtle distinction in this case. Recall will always indicate that the diplomats have been ordered out of the receiving country (though despite the usual meaning not necessarily actually back to the sending country), but withdraw might simply mean that they have been ordered somewhere else within the receiving country. This can matter in the middle of an uprising/civil war/coup/other domestic situation where it is deemed that the capital is no longer safe but there is some defensible location the diplomats can shelter at until the situation calms.

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  • Does your last sentence "This can matter ..." serve as an example for "withdraw" or for "recall"?
    – Loviii
    Commented Feb 26 at 3:15

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