I heard the folllowing sentence in the Narcos TV series:

Señor, Gacha se escapa!

Context: The police are carrying out a raid on the hideout of a drug trafficker named Gacha and one of the police officers says the sentence above to his commanding officer when he notices that Gacha is escaping in a car.

Is there any difference in meaning between "escapar" and "escaparse"? ¿"Le escapa la respiración" vs "Se le escapa la respiración"? is a similar question, but the pronoun "se" is used there to express a sympathetic dative (a possessive relationship with "respiración"), which is not the case here.

  • If a person is escaping from something, then it will be escaparse. This would be a fun one to experiment with Linguee.com on. // This is in fact rather more straightforward than some of your questions. I bet if you include a dictionary definition with example sentences in your question, you might find that you've actually found the answer yourself. – aparente001 Dec 17 '19 at 5:19
  • @aparente001 I do not follow. The subject is not (explicitly) escaping from anything in my example sentence. Implicitly, one is always escaping from something. – Alan Evangelista Dec 17 '19 at 13:46
  • You found a good example: "Le escapa la respiración." If you put an optional "se" in that sentence, it just adds a little oomph. The sentence is just fine without it. But in conversation (informal language) it is generally "escaparse de la cárcel." Why don't you take a look at the example sentences at the following Lexico link and see if you start to get a feel for when "escapar" fits best and when "escaparse" fits best? This is the sort of thing it is hard to write an algorithm for. Even if we did, then you'd have to go through a tedious process when speaking or writing, to retrieve ... – aparente001 Dec 17 '19 at 19:30
  • ... all that. Best is to get it in your ear. Rather like prepositions. One can learn various rules about preposition choice, but at the end of the day, prepositions are something you just have to get a feel for. – aparente001 Dec 17 '19 at 19:30
  • You should check the Real Academia Espanhola's dictionary before posting: dle.rae.es/escapar?m=form They explain these reflexive uses. – Lambie Jan 14 '20 at 19:21

Escaparse (Freedictionary.com):

verbo pronominal. 3. salir de un encierro o peligro una persona o animal escaparse del cuartel enemigo

Escapar (Freedictionary.com):

intr.-prnl. Salir de un encierro o peligro.
En general, salir uno de prisa y ocultamente.
No ser advertida o percibida [una cosa].

To me, this is another of those cases where the pronominal version has more oomph. "Escapó" sounds more clinical and dry, like an emotionless news report, to my ear. "Se escapó" brings more emotion to it, more excitement. Depending on the situation, we might feel frightened -- or we might feel relieved, or thrilled. It depends on the situation.

  • Se dice: Jorge, ¡ se escapa el perro !. Pero no se dice: Jorge,¡ el perro escapa ![normalmente y sin más]. Tendría que ser: Jorge, el perro escapa de la casa todos los días. O sea, necesita un COD cuando no es pronominal. ¿ No te parece ? Y "Le escapa la respiración" no va por nada porque la respiración si no fuera, p.ej. un atleta que no controla su respiración. :) – Lambie Jan 15 '20 at 15:41
  • @Lambie qué quiere decir "COD"? En "el perro escapa de la casa todos los días", el complemento "de la casa" no es un complemento directo. – wimi Feb 14 '20 at 8:05

Disclaimer: this is not a dictionary definition, is just my feeling as a native speaker when using escapar vs. escaparse.

I would say that escapar is a reflexive verb, there are many of them in spanish and the meaning between reflexive and non-reflexive form are related but certainly different.

In this case escaparse is to run away and emphasizes the fact that someone is doing some effort to run away from some situation or place. If you don't use the reflexive form the meaning goes more in the direction of "getting out" and implies less effort.

So if you take following two sentences:

  • El aire se escapa de la botella : The air leaves the bottle by doing some sort of effort.
  • El aire sale de la botella : The air leaks out of the bottle naturally

The sentence "El aire escapa de la botella" would mean something in between emphasizing that the air leaves, without doing much effort.

  • 1
    The air leaks out of the bottle. The air leaves the bottle. get out is for people, usually. – Lambie Jan 14 '20 at 19:24
  • @Lambie : Thanks, I didn't know that. I will correct the text – julodnik Jan 15 '20 at 7:25

In your example, "escapar" and "escaparse" are completely different:

¡Señor Gacha, escapa!

This means you are asking him to escape (an order, a command).

¡Señor Gacha, se escapa!

This means that you just saw him escaping and you are alerting everyone.

With other verbs or situations both the verb and its pronominal form mean the same, except that the pronominal one emphasizes. For example:

Voy a comer una manzana


Voy a comerme una manzana Me voy a comer una manzana

These last two emphasize more that you would like to eat an apple

  • 3
    I disagree. The sentence I asked about and which expresses that Gacha is escaping is "Señor, Gacha se escapa!". In "¡Señor Gacha, se escapa!", you are telling Gacha that someone else is escaping. – Alan Evangelista Dec 18 '19 at 15:46

i answer as a native from argentina.

"Escapar" is the verb in infinitive

Yo me escapo
vos te escapas (we don't use "tu")
el/ella se escapa

nosotros nos escapamos
ellos se escapan
ustedes se escapan>

In the tv show, they use "el señor gacha se escapa"

I hope I've helped you

  • 1
    "escapar" can be used without a reflexive pronoun, so I do not understand your answer. Also, the line in the TV series is exactly the one I have mentioned in my question: "Señor, Gacha se escapa". "señor" in that sentence refers to whom the speaker is talking to (the ranking officer in charge of the raid), not Gacha. – Alan Evangelista Jan 14 '20 at 20:44
  • indeed, can be used without a pronoun. I put it as an example. it can be used as this "can be". Use it in infinitive – Denis Hugo Perafan Jan 14 '20 at 21:20

"-arse" means it is a pronominal or a reflexive verb. So in the example, Gacha escapes in the car for some pronominal reason. Simply "Gacha escapa" would mean that Gacha would be escaping with the help of some other factors.

  • 1
    As the tag to the question correctly points out this is a verbo-pronominal and not reflexive at all. Reading some of the answers in that thread may help to explain the difference further. – mdewey Aug 15 '20 at 8:28
  • 1
    First, Gacha is not escaping on his own, but with the help of his men and son. Second, Gacha is a man, not a woman. Third, the verb is not reflexive here, but rather pronominal. – Alan Evangelista Aug 15 '20 at 21:59

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