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).

Better Flow posted:

Hello David, whenever you find the time - do you have an advice how to put it in this case ? Would "break out of a system of corruption" be correct?  

In order to get it to flow better, Better Flow, I need to break out of the two-choice box you've given me (I don't like either choice) and choose a different verb: flee.

Thank you for taking the time. I think "flee" does not have the dramatic momentum of "break out" which is more kind of active. Since it is for a theatre play (what you could not know) I should say "break out".  My latest version is: to "Break out of Sodom". After all your comments I understand this would be better than "Break out from Sodom".  Would you agree ? 

Better Flow posted:

I think "flee" does not have the dramatic momentum of "break out" which is more kind of active. Since it is for a theatre play (what you could not know) I should say "break out".  My latest version is: to "Break out of Sodom". After all your comments I understand this would be better than "Break out from Sodom".  Would you agree ? 

Hi, Better Flow,

If you start threads here in the future, please don't beat around the bush. Go ahead and tell us the example you have in mind and the context. We should not have to wait till the sixth post to see what you have in mind. Thank you.

I still prefer "flee" -- "Fleeing Sodom," to use your example. "Break out of" indicates confinement, and there is no real confinement if someone is simply living in a certain area with a certain government.

On Google, "fleeing Sodom" gets 9,530 hits. "Breaking out of Sodom" gets zero.

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