Reply to "break out"

Hello, Better Flow, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange!

Better Flow posted:

Hello, I am just wondering where to use „break out of“ and where „break out from“. Is it better to say „break out from a system“ or rather „break out of a system“? 

As a native speaker, I do not hear "break out from" as prepositional verb, like "break out of." That does not mean no native speaker would. "Break out from" clearly exists, and some speakers appear to hear it as a unit.

I would use "break out from" if the "from"-phrase were an adjunct modifying "break out," as in the following example (categorized "academic") from the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA):

  • "Fires would break out from broken gas lines."

In that example, "from broken gas lines" is an adjunct. We could say: "It was from broken gas lines that fires would break out." By contrast, we could not transform "They broke out of the prison" to "It was of the prison that they broke out."

In order to tell you whether "break out of a system" is better or worse than "break out from a system," I would need to know more about the context. What type of system are you talking about, and who or what is breaking out?

In the absence of more context, I recommend choosing between "break out of," "break off of," or "break away from." But everything hinges on the meaning you desire. Please note that in English we use quotes "like this" (with both on top).

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