Get better with the verbs rentrer, retourner, revenir
French is a beautiful language that seems to have many lovely words to describe any idea. However, that means there are many nuances in conversation in French. As a result, learning to navigate these particularities can get learners down.
To really sound like a native speaker, you need to get better with the verbs retourner, revenir and rentrer. Since they all can be used as ‘come back’ and ‘return’ in English, you will find below the key distinctions. And by breaking them down to their core elements, understanding them becomes less intimidating.
The verb revenir
Repartir and other verbs starting with -re
First, retourner can be intransitive, transitive or reflexive. As a reminder, a verb is transitive or intransitive whether it requires an object to express a complete thought or not.
Retourner as a intransitive verb
To go back to a place you’ve been before
Je retourne chaque été à St Tropez = I go back to St Tropez every summer
Elle retourne vivre chez ses parents = She goes back to live with her parents
Return to where you left from, return to your home or the place you left
Est-ce que tu es retourné à Sydney ? = Have you been back to Sydney ?
Tu peux retourner à la boulangerie pour me prendre un croissant ? = Can you go back to the bakery to take me a croissant ?
The transitive verb retourner
To turn something upside down, to rotate
Il a retourné la crêpe = He turned the pancake over
Nous retournons le matelas au printemps = We rotate the mattress each spring
Return something where it belongs
Vous devez retourner les livres avant mardi prochain = You must return the books before next Tuesday
Disturb someone deeply, to shake
La nouvelle de cet accident m’a vraiment retourné = The news of this accident deeply shook me
A reflexive verb se retourner
To turn over
Il se retourne souvent dans son lit = He often turns over in his bed
Mon ami est parti sans se retourner = My friend took off and didn’t look back
Turn against someone
Les propriétaires se sont retournés contre lui = The owners turned against him
In order to better conjugate these verbs, feel free to practice and check the website Comment Conjuguer.
The verb revenir
Then, the verb revenir is a bit easier than retourner. Indeed, this verb is mainly intransitive. We’re going to see the differences :
To come again, another time somewhere
Les oiseaux migrateurs reviennent ici tous les ans = The migrating birds come back every year
The synonym here is repasser.
Return to the place where we usually are
Vous devez revenir à votre place après l’entracte = You must return to your seat after the intermission
A synonym in French would be rentrer.
To show up again
La canicule est revenue = the heat wave has returned
At last, you can use réapparaitre or se reproduire as a synonym.
Attention : Revenir à means to cost.
ex : Cela vous revient à 150 euros = It costs you 150 euros.
Next, the verb rentrer is translated as entrer de nouveau (to enter again) :
To come back or to return to your usual place
Les enfants, rentrez à la maison. Il commence à pleuvoir ! = Children, come home. It’s starts to rain !
Chéri, je rentre à 8 heures ce soir = Honey, I come home at 8pm tonight
Elle rentre des Etats-Unis = She’s coming back from the United States
Be careful as we can use different prepositions of place : rentrer de (come back from), rentrer à (return to) and rentrer chez (go to someone’s place)
Repartir and verbs starting with -re
Finally, another similar verb in French is repartir.
To leave again
Je rêve de repartir en Thaïlande = I dream of going back to Thailand
Tu repars déjà ? Tu viens d’arriver ! = You’re already leaving ? You just arrived
Getting back to moving, walking, functioning, unfolding
Après une heure d’arrêt, le train est reparti = After une hour’s stop, the train departed
Additional verbs starting with the prefix -re
This prefix generally means to do something again. However, sometimes it can modify completely the meaning of the verb. As often in French, there are exceptions :
Réapparaitre = to reappear
Redécorer = to redecorate
Redémarrer = to restart
Redire = to reiterate
Refaire = to redo
Rejouer = to replay
(Se) remarier = to remarry
Repeindre = to repaint
And some exceptions :
Recevoir = to receive
Refroidir = to cool down
Refuser = to refuse
Rejoindre = to go find someone
(Se) relaxer = to relax
Reprendre = to resume / to take back
We have over 700 French verbs starting with the prefix -re !
In conclusion, I hope you’ve found the reading useful ! Would you like to learn favorite French idioms ? Bring a little fun into your learning by contacting me today ! Great French courses are available for all levels.