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I can understand the construction like the following with vanish and disappear.

  • The money vanished from my wallet.
  • Money seems to vanish into a black hole.
  • A strange light appeared and vanished into the darkness again.
  • The sun disappeared behind a cloud.
  • His sudden disappearance is very worrying.

In the following sentence,

All the chocolates vanished away in no time at all.

what if the adverb away used with the verb vanished is dropped? It appears to be redundant.

Both of the idiomatic phrases vanish into thing air and disappear without trace appear to mean "vanish all of a sudden in a way that seems impossible or in a way that cannot be explained or at least difficult to explain", such as

  • When the hunter looked again, the bear had already vanished into thin air.
  • The plane disappeared without trace and no survivors were ever found.

How much does it make a difference, if the first sentence is given "disappeared without trace" and the second one is given "vanished into thin air"?

Moreover, the indefinite article a is quite less frequently seen with disappear without trace such as disappear without a trace. Does the article a have its own meaning in some contexts or it's just optional?

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This is kind of confusing. What exactly are you asking? Are you asking if the "away" in "vanished away" is optional? Or are you asking what the difference is between "disappeared without trace" and "vanished into thin air"? –  Ataraxia Oct 29 '12 at 2:03
    
That's not a kind of confusion at all. I'm asking about both of them as each one is separated by a horizontal bar. –  Tiny Oct 29 '12 at 2:33

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

For me, "disappeared without a trace" and "vanished into thin air" mean the same thing.

"Disappeared without trace" seems ungrammatical in American English. I don't know about other brands. Could it be like "He's in hospital"?

"All the chocolates vanished away in no time at all" seems not idiomatic to me because of away. Lewis Carroll, however, used it in The Hunting of the Snark:

I engage with the Snark -- every night after dark --
In a dreamy, delirious fight.
I serve it with greens in those shadowy scenes,
And I use it for striking a light.

But if ever I meet with a Boojum, that day,
In a moment (of this I am sure)
I shall softly and silently vanish away --
And the notion I cannot endure!

Whether this was just for the rhyme (and, therefore, poetic license) or was (and maybe still is) idiomatic British English, I don't know.

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+1 Can't argue with Lewis Carroll. –  StoneyB Oct 29 '12 at 3:11

I agree with your first observation: "vanished away" seems redundant to me. Idioms.com agrees: "the away is considered redundant."

As for "disappeared without trace" I suspect you're incorrect that the indefinite article is less common in this idiom. A Google search for "disappeared without trace" produces about 1/3 as many results as "disappeared without a trace". Since "trace" in this context is presumably a singular, countable noun, meaning a sign or mark of something (see definition 1), the indefinite article is grammatically correct. Perhaps there are idiomatic versions where the "a" is dropped stylistically, or perhaps some people treat "trace" as an uncountable noun (roughly equivalent to saying "disappeared without evidence").

I'm a native speaker and I've never heard anyone say "vanished away" or "disappeared without trace," though of course that isn't dispositive of their correctness or frequency.

-- jm

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In Longman's essential activator, I ever saw "disappear without trace" was written like "disappear without (a) trace". –  Tiny Oct 29 '12 at 2:19
    
Longman is a British publisher, so it may very well be that this phrase is idiomatic BrE. –  user21497 Oct 29 '12 at 3:38
    
Here's a link to a !Google Ngram for those two phrases. Checking the books for 2000-2008, those with "a" seem to be British English and those without American English. I didn't say that "the indefinite article is less common in this idiom". I said that I thought it "seems ungrammatical in AmE" and may be like the BrE "He's in hospital", so we don't disagree on this point. –  user21497 Oct 29 '12 at 3:45
    
Mistake in above comment: "those with 'a' seem to be British English and those without American English" should be the other way around: "those with 'a' seem to be American English and those without, British English". –  user21497 Oct 29 '12 at 3:53
    
Bill - Just to clarify, I was addressing the OP, not you, with the comment about the incorrect characterization of the popularity of the indefinite article. –  Jeremy Oct 29 '12 at 4:49

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