turn back

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English[edit]

Verb[edit]

turn back (third-person singular simple present turns back, present participle turning back, simple past and past participle turned back)

  1. (intransitive) To reverse direction and retrace one's steps.
    Realising he had forgotten his briefcase, he turned back to the office.
    • 1914, Louis Joseph Vance, Nobody, Ch.III:
      Turning back, then, toward the basement staircase, she began to grope her way through blinding darkness, but had taken only a few uncertain steps when, of a sudden, she stopped short and for a little stood like a stricken thing, quite motionless save that she quaked to her very marrow in the grasp of a great and enervating fear.
  2. To return to a previous state of being.
    He stopped drinking for a couple of years, but now he has turned back to his old ways.
    Once we take this decision, there's no turning back.
  3. (transitive) To prevent or refuse to allow passage or progress.
    The soldiers turned back all the refugees at the frontier.
  4. {lb|en|transitive}} To adjust to a previous setting.
    In Autumn we normally turn the clocks back one hour.
    I love that song: turn back to it!
  5. (transitive) To fold something back; to fold down.
    When you make the bed, please always turn the sheet back over the blanket.
  6. (obsolete, transitive) To give back; to return.
    • William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
      We turn not back the silks upon the merchants, / When we have soiled them.

Usage notes[edit]

  • In sense 3 the object is normally a person, or group of people, or means of transport. It may appear before or after the particle. If the object is a pronoun, then it must be before the particle.
  • In senses 4 and 5 the object is normally a thing. It may appear before or after the particle. If the object is a pronoun, then it must be before the particle.

Synonyms[edit]

Related terms[edit]