Retourner vs Revenir (Differences and conjugation)

Retourner vs revenir

Here is a new word pair that is usually confused in French: retourner vs revenir.

Retourner (to go back, return)

Retourner means to go back to a place where we have already been. It's usually used with the preposition chez or à.

For example:

  • Zut! J'ai oubli√© mon masque. Je dois retourner chez moi. (Damn! I forgot my mask. I have to go back home.)

Retourner also means to return something.

  • Quand est-ce que tu retournes les livres √† la biblioth√®que? (When do you return the books to the library?)


Here is the conjugation of the verb retourner in the present tense:

Je retourne (I go back)
Tu retournes (You go back)
Il/elle/on retourne (He, she, one goes back)
Nous retournons (We go back)
Vous retournez (You -formal/plural) go back)
Ils/elles retournent (They go back)

*The past particle of the verb retourner is: retourné ((e)(s)

Revenir (to come back)

Revenir means to come back to a place where we are currently. It can be used alone, with no preposition.

For example:

  • Tu peux nous attendre? Nous revenons dans cinq minutes. (Can you wait for us? We come back in five minutes.)
  • J'ai oubli√© mes cl√©s au restaurant. Je dois y retourner. Je reviens¬†tout de suite. (I forgot my keys at the restaurant. I have go back there. I'll be right back. )


The conjugation of the verb revenir in the present tense is the same as the verb "venir" (to come):

Je reviens (I come back)
Tu reviens (You come back)
Il/elle/on revient (He, she, one comes back)
Nous revenons (We come back)
Vous revenez (You -formal/plural) come back)

Ils/elles reviennent (They come back) 

*The past particle of the verb revenir is : revenu (e)(s)

It's your turn!

Complete the sentences with the correct form of retourner or revenir. (Check your answers below)

1) J'ai oublié mon portefeuille au café! Je dois y ______.

2) Quand est-ce que tu  ____ ? 

3) Si tu n'aimes pas ton cadeau, tu peux toujours le ______.

4) Ils parlaient d'elle, quand elle est _____.

5) Phil et Mink sont _____ chez eux après une année à Terre neuve.


Check you answers

1) Retourner

2) Reviens

3) Retourner

4) Revenue

5) Retournés


Check out my book Don't mix them up to learn the differences between the most confusing French word pairs! 

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