What is the best word for, "to flee", as "in he fled" or "we should flee", or perhaps just "We should get out of here!". In the dictionary I find two verbs fuir and s'enfuir. What's the difference? (I realize that this may have been discussed before, but alas at a level beyond my comprehension, at least in French.

and because I am so happy with the excellent answers I receive here, I leave you with an amusing poem. If you are a teacher, your students may also enjoy it, as an example of the chaos of English. Thank you all!

A flea and a fly in a flu,
Were imprisoned, so what could they do.
Said the flea, 'Let us fly."
Said the fly, "Let us flee."
So they flew through a flaw in the flu.

  • 1
    They are very similar. I would say "fuir" is with your mind, and "s'enfuir" is with your legs, but kinda hard to say...
    – Random
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 12:11
  • fuir: transitif : vis à vis de quelque chose, un endroit, une personne, un état. En général avec COD (mais on peut aussi l'omettre). S'enfuir: pronominal, qui peuvent s'employer sans complément: déplacement physique. Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 12:31
  • it's a flue that they are caught in, no?
    – hunter
    Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 3:06
  • Yes, a flue. Sorry, I am a terrible speller, and english is a terrible language for anyone who has difficulty with spelling.
    – Irving
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 10:29

2 Answers 2


There is no "best word". Good translations depend on the context.

Possible ones for "he fled" might be:

Il s'est échappé (de sa cellule, de son enclos)

Il s'est évadé (de prison)

Il a fui (ses responsabilités, son pays, sa famille, à l'étranger,...)

Il s'est enfui (de chez lui, de son pays, à l'étranger,...)

Il a quitté (son pays/sa femme/...)

  • Pour « quitter », j'utiliserais « to leave ». Pour « échapper » et « évader », je préfèrerais « to escape ». D'accord avec la réponse nonobstant.
    – Chop
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 12:20
  • @Chop Je pensais à he fled his wife que je ne traduirais probablement pas par Il a fui sa femme mais par il a quitté sa femme.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 12:34
  • Certes, mais on véhicule dans ce cas un peu plus que la simple dimension « administrative ». Il y a une notion de désertion, d'abandon à faire passer. « Abandonné » ?
    – Chop
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 13:01
  • "Il s'est sauvé." Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 15:38

They are quite similar in meaning with a difference of emphasis,

  • fuir put the emphasis on what is fled from (even if it is implied).

  • s'enfuir put the emphasis on the movement itself.

And to complete with the other verbs cited by @jlliagre:

  • s'échapper implies that there was a constraint.

  • s'évader implies a stronger constraint, probably legal, the most common usage is for convicts and prisonners.

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