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Your English: Collocations: return

Type: Article

Here, Tim Bowen returns with some key information on the collocates of the word return.

The verb return is widely used as an intransitive verb but its transitive form has a number of common collocations, mainly related to the meaning of doing or saying something to someone that is similar to something they have done or said to you. For example, you can return a greeting or return a phone call, as in ‘I'm sorry I wasn't able to return your phone call earlier’. If someone helps you out in some way, you can respond by returning the favour – ‘Thanks for helping me. I'll try to return the favour some day’. If someone says something nice to you, you can return the compliment by saying something nice to them: ‘She told me I looked well and I returned the compliment, telling her she looked terrific’. You can also return items you have bought if there is something wrong with them: ‘She had to return the dress because it didn’t fit’.

In the sense of submit, you can also return a form, return a document or return a questionnaire: 'Please complete the questionnaire and return it to the personnel department’. In the world of business, investments can return a profit, while in a military context you can return fire (shoot at someone who has shot at you): ‘As soon as we started shooting, the enemy returned fire’. In the world of politics, voters can return someone to office, as in ‘It seems unlikely that the prime minister will be returned to office’, and in the world of sport, tennis players return serve. Finally, when a jury in a court of law decides whether someone is guilty or not guilty of a crime, they return a verdict: ‘After several hours the jury returned a verdict of not guilty'.

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