Con la frase inglesa "His breath escapes him", ¿cuál sería la traducción (más) correcta?

Le escapa su respiración


Se le escape su respiración

He indagado un poco pero no entiendo completamente la diferencia entre escapar y escaparse. Puede ser que esta frase suene raro en español -- una traducción demasiado literal del anglosajón.

Pero, en general, ¿cómo se usaría "escapar" en este sentido un poco metafórico? Por ejemplo, con la frase "His thoughts escape him", sería correcta

Le escapan sus pensamientos


Se le escapan sus pensamientos

  • The literal translation using escape here to me sounds very unnatural. Unless you are trying to translate a poem "when my last breath escapes me on the battle-field" I wouldnt use it, in my country we say "le falta la respiración".
    – Pablo
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 14:58
  • Perhaps, but one can say, somewhat poetically, that ones thoughts escape, or his memories escaped him, or, perhaps, "gradually the sense of guilt escaped him"....I'm wondering how to translate this sense of "escape". Perhaps an entirely different word is appropriate?
    – Cerulean
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 15:01
  • "His breath escapes him" is not right so English has zero influence here. respiración is breathing by the way. Se le escapa la respiración = He is not controlling his breathing. [That is, his breathing is getting away from him.]
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 19:36

2 Answers 2


Escapar is one of those verbs that can be used with or without the reflexive pronoun (let's call them "optionally pronominal verbs" for short), with only a subtle change in meaning.

Your first example sentence is... weird. If you mean that "his breath comes out of his mouth without him being able to prevent it" (as in, "he's so much in need of breath that he's panting hard and has to continue doing so for a while"), then the verb escaparse (pronominal escapar) is the right choice. But you would use it like this:

Se le escapa la respiración.

This construction has a sympathetic dative. By mentioning the third person patient (le = a él/ella) you make the possessive redundant (thus you don't say su respiración but la respiración). It's exactly parallel to more familiar phrases that associate a person with a possession or something closely related to him/her, especially body parts, such as

Se le enfrían los pies.
Se nos pierden las llaves.
Se me duermen las piernas.

This construction doesn't only exist for pronominal verbs but it's very common with some of them, because of reasons having to do with the fact that most are intransitive and have patientive subjects (subjects that experience a change or action passively).

You can place the subject in its more typical position at the beginning, too; it's a matter of subtly different emphases.


Ejemplo de uso de "His breath escapes him":

If I do not [return], my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, nor that, when my last breath escapes me on the battle-field, it will whisper your name. --Major Sullivan Ballou

Cuando sale el aire de un globo, se dice "Se escapa el aire del globo." Pero en la carta de Ballou, creo que escapar cuadra mejor que escaparse. Porque escaparse me da una idea más literal, como una fuga. Mira, si se dijera "when my last breath escapes from my body" etc., entonces ahí sí creo que quedaría bien escaparse.

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