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Runaway vs. run away

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  • Runaway works as a noun (meaning someone or something that has run away) and an adjective (meaning out-of-control, unrestrained, or escaped), but it does not function as a verb. If you need a verb meaning to flee or to escape, use the two-word phrasal verb run away.

    Run away is just one of many phrasal verbs with corresponding one-word nouns/adjectives. Check up, work out, and blow up are a few other examples. The one word forms almost never become verbs in standard usage.

    Examples

    Runaway (noun, adjective)

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    Crystal Harris, Hugh Hefner’s 25-year-old runaway bride, is putting her 3.39-carat engagement ring up for auction next month. [Los Angeles Times]

    Yet, the runaway train ploughs on, scarcely aware that it ran over the people who make the brakes. [Irish Times]

    Seven of the 11 children were listed only as missing and six were presumed to be runaways from broken homes. [The Province]

    Run away (verb)

    A missing Porirua teen is feared to have run away to Los Angeles to meet a person she met on Facebook. [Stuff.co.nz]

    Pat Juras didn’t run away and hide during the opening mile. [Buffalo Grove Countryside]

    These are the children who are most likely to run away from home. [Guardian]

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    Comments

    1. If native speakers aren’t sure of the spelling, they can rely on this pronunciation tip.

      “¢ The phrasal verb is stressed on the second element (the preposition/particle): to run aWAY
      “¢ The noun compound is stressed on the first element (the first noun): a RUNaway

      This is true for all phrasal verb vs. noun compound pairs: to follow up vs. the follow-up, to sit in vs. a sit-in, etc.

      I have to teach this to my non-native speaking clients since they didn’t grow up “knowing” the correct pronunciation.  Native speakers say it right, just don’t usually spell it right.

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