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What is the difference between retreated into and retreated back into?

They retreated into Pakistan

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    Please show what efforts you have made to find the answer for yourself. Have you looked up the word in dictionaries? Googled it? What do you think the answer could be? Questions that do not show any prior research are closed on this site. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 16 '13 at 9:53
  • I have not got any proper information on google on this. As most of the times google is giving latter results for the formal search. So I am baffled. – pratap m Oct 16 '13 at 10:03
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I don't know what contexts you're looking for, so let's take the simplest, military. "Back" implies return to origin.

We charged the enemy lines, but met with heavy fire and loses, we were forced to retreat back into trenches.

After a day of march we encountered an enemy patrol. As they called artillery support, we were forced to retreat into a nearby town, seeking cover.

Essentially, retreat implies going away from your opposition. If you return where you started, you retreat back, but you can retreat sideways under some cover which you didn't encounter on your way there, or even further than where you came from.

  • The context is given in the question. – Kris Oct 16 '13 at 11:00
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The soldiers withdrew until they were back in their territory. (They could have 'retreated' and still be within enemy territory).


retreat: moving back or withdrawing. Therefore, it does not take the preposition back.

However,

they retreated (back) into Pakistan

can be parsed like this:

They retreated + (back) into Pakistan

That is, the soldiers withdrew until they were back in their territory. (They could have 'retreated' and still be within enemy territory).

not

They retreated (back) + into Pakistan

The word back may be acceptable considering that retreated here is used in its special military sense, not the general English meaning. retreat: (of an army) withdraw from enemy forces as a result of their superior power or after a defeat

  • As a note, of course you can retreat and still be within enemy territory, but if you indicate into Pakistan it implies they retreated in a territory different from where the battle took place. – microenzo Dec 18 '18 at 10:32
  • @microenzo They could have advanced from elsewhere, though. Think about it. – Kris Dec 18 '18 at 10:33
  • Of course they could - but the point is that if you specify where they retreated into it rather implies (or simply stresses) that they moved into different territory from the battleground. The use of back implies that they retreated into whatever territory they came from; without back they could have advanced from anywhere and retreated into the territory indicated. – microenzo Dec 18 '18 at 10:38
  • I refuse to retreat. – Kris Dec 18 '18 at 10:49
  • A war of attrition! :) – microenzo Dec 18 '18 at 10:57

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