I’m helping a friend edit his document, and he needs to make some changes but has forgotten what the paragraph said before he started to edit it. So he calls me and asks if he can just “revert back” to the original, which might erase my edits, but what does he mean? Why does he ask to “revert back,” and should I say yes or no?
We cannot properly use the phrase “revert back” in English because it is redundant. We can “revert,” or we can “go back” to a previous version, but we cannot “revert back.” “Revert” already means “to go back,” so you cannot accurately say “to go back back.”
In this article, we will discuss how to use “revert back” and what other words or phrases you can use instead of “revert back.” We’ll also explain the meaning of “revert back” to help you improve your English usage. Read on to discover exactly when and where you can use “revert back.”
What Does “Revert Back” Mean?
The phrase “revert back” does not exist in the English dictionary. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of “revert” is “to come or go back” (source). Therefore, if you said “revert back,” you would be saying “to go back back.” Obviously, “revert” can function alone in most cases.
The phrase “revert back” is actually a combination of the word “revert” and the phrase “to go back.” When we rush, we sometimes combine parts of two different thoughts. That is what happens when we say, “revert back.” The word “back” is unnecessary because “revert” already means ”to go back” or “to return.”
Merriam-Webster gives several secondary definitions for the word “revert” as well. As we already stated, “revert” usually means “to come or go back (as to a former condition, period, or subject).”
However, we also use this word to mean “to return to the proprietor or to his or her heirs” and “to return to an ancestral type” in very rare instances. Each of these examples uses only the word “revert” and never the phrase “revert back.”
For an interesting comparison between American and British English usage, read “Is It Correct to Say, ‘Revert to Us’?”
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Revert Back”?
It is not grammatically accurate to say “revert back.” Again, since one of the definitions of “revert” is “to go back,” we do not need to use “back” with “revert.” The grammatically correct statement is “revert,” leaving off the word “back” as unnecessary.
The word “revert” is a verb, and we generally use verbs to show action. In the case of a verb such as “revert,” the action is complete without needing any additional words.
In this context, the word “back” would be an adverb because it shows the time, place, or manner in which the verb completed its action. However, because “revert” is a complete verb, we do not need the adverb.
When Not to Use “Revert Back”
Do not use “revert back” in any sentence where “revert” could function alone. Redundancy is a consistent problem among English speakers and writers. It is essential to recognize this challenge to be proactive about improving your writing skills.
Capital Community College Foundation’s “Guide to Grammar” says, “redundant phrases are bad habits just waiting to take control of your writing” (source).
If you say, “After I finish using this book, it will revert back to its owner,” you are making a redundant statement. Likewise, you would not say, “I woke up at 2 a.m. in the morning,” because both “a.m.” and “in the morning” mean the same thing.
Similarly, “revert” and “go back” have the same meaning. If you use them together, you are unnecessarily repeating the same idea.
What Can You Use Instead of “Revert Back”?
Many other words or phrases work as synonyms for “revert,” so you won’t have to rewrite your sentence completely. For example, you can use “about-face” or “flip-flop,” both of which have similar meanings to “revert” (source) or words like “regress” or “relapse.”
Most readers consider both “about-face” and “flip-flop” to be more casual than “revert,” and you should use them sparingly or only in informal settings.
“About face” is a military term they use when a commander wants to tell his army to turn and move in an opposite direction or 180 degrees. You can imagine this would express the same action as “reverting” or going back.
On the other hand, “flip-flop” has a slightly different meaning. Picture a fish lying on its side in a bucket. When it “flips,” it is lying on its opposite side. Then, if it “flops” back to the original side, it has completed a “flip-flop.”
The fish is now lying exactly as it was at the beginning. It has “reverted” to its original position, first by moving to an opposite position, then by flopping back to the first side.
To avoid using the word “revert,” you could use either “regress” or “relapse,” depending on the context (source). You can use each of these options in both formal and informal situations, so feel free to add them to your grammar toolbox, as we’ve shown in the examples below.
- The team regressed to its previous skill level when their coach left.
- If you don’t keep studying, your grades will relapse.
Be aware that the word “relapse,” which some dictionaries offer as a synonym for “revert,” has multiple meanings.
When we use “relapse” in a medical context, we refer to a disease that returns after a temporary reprieve, which would be a negative connotation. This shows how important it is to make sure your context is appropriate.
When you “revert,” you are returning to an earlier condition. There are many other ways to word this return: “go back,” “undo,” “return,” and “regress” are all grammatically correct options.
Here are examples of these other options in use:
- I needed to undo the changes I had made.
- The ownership of the car will return to me if he does not pay on time.
Using “Revert Back” in a Full Sentence
We cannot use “revert back” in a full sentence properly and must rather omit “back” and use “revert” alone. When we speak of something going back to a previous condition, we say it has “reverted” or “returned.” Just as you would not say “return back,” it is improper to say “revert back.”
Sample sentences using “revert”:
- After a period of time under colonial rule, the island will revert and become independent.
- Under Jewish law, property reverted to its original owners every fifty years.
- If you are not going to use the textbook, you should allow it to revert to the library.
In the sentence, “I need to revert to the original formatting before I submit this assignment,” I am saying that I need to go back to the original formatting before I submit the assignment.
If we use “revert back” instead of “revert,” we are saying, “I need to go back back to the original formatting.” This is not correct usage and would confuse our listeners.
“Revert” is a very useful word when trying to communicate something that we have to undo. Whether you are correcting an error or returning property, the verb “revert” meets the need. When you need to use it in a full sentence, though, make sure to use only “revert” without adding “back.”
Can We Use “Revert Back” in Email?
We cannot use “revert back” in email communication. The definition of “revert” is “to go back,” so we would use the word “revert” alone. We would not use it with “back.” It is perfectly appropriate to simply say, “I need to revert to an earlier version,” but you would not say, “Let’s revert back to the original.”
In email communication, we are putting our thoughts in writing. Because it involves written communication, email necessarily requires slightly more formal wording. Where you might be able to get away with informal wording in your spoken communication, you must guard against it in your written communication, including emails.
Be on guard against phrases such as “revert back” in your emails. It is essential to state your case clearly, but without being redundant.
How Do You Use “Revert Back”?
There is never a proper way to use the phrase “revert back” in English correctly. Instead, you should use the word “revert” alone if you mean “to go back” or “to return.”
If you use “revert back,” it is incorrect grammar. Your reader might be confused about your meaning, or they might think you do not know proper English grammar.
There are many ways to use “revert” correctly in a sentence. Both in writing and when you’re speaking, you will use the word “revert” alone, without saying “revert back.”
You can use “revert” to mean that something is going back to the way it used to be or if you’re returning something to its previous owner. These situations are perfect for using the verb “revert,” as long as you use it alone.
When Can You Use “Revert Back”?
You cannot use “revert back” in any proper English context. If you want to talk about someone returning to a former position, you can use “revert” as a stand-alone verb. You can use “revert” to mean “to go back,” or you can use “go back.” But it is not possible to use “revert back” correctly in English.
There is never a good time to use “revert back” if you want to use correct grammar. However, if you are creative, you can find many other options, such as “go back” or “reverse course.” You can even say something “reverted” without adding the word “back.” Just don’t use “revert back” together because it is improper English.
In What Context Can You Use “Revert Back”?
There is no context in which it is acceptable to use the phrase “revert back.” The word “revert” should always operate alone to denote a reversal. You should eliminate the word “back” because “revert” means to go back. Adding the word “back” would make the phrase repetitive.
Redundancy in English
We’ve mentioned that the phrase “revert back” is redundant. Because “revert” means “to go back” and “back” is already in the definition of “revert,” we considered it redundant. To be redundant means to be unnecessary because it repeats something someone already stated (source).
Redundancy is a problem for many writers and speakers. You may be surprised to find that many of the phrases you use are unnecessarily wordy (source).
For instance, if you often say “large in size” or “small in size,” you are using multiple words to say something that you could say more simply — this is redundancy.
Another example is “3:00 a.m. in the morning.” If it is 3:00 a.m., we already know that a.m. times occur in the morning. Similarly, “past history” is a common redundant phrase. The past is always history, and history is always in the past.
Phrases and Idioms
When considering whether we can use “revert back,” it’s useful to understand what part of speech it is. A phrase is a group of words that forms part of a sentence, and “revert back” would therefore be a phrase. However, it’s not a phrase we would ever use because it’s incorrect.
Phrases and Idioms are an essential part of speaking and understanding English. We explain phrases, idioms, and even metaphors more fully in our article “Idiom vs. Metaphor: How They Are Different?”
Literal phrases contain multiple words that mean what they seem to indicate. These phrases are simple to translate or understand, as long as you comprehend the individual words that make up the phrase.
On the other hand, idioms are phrases that do not have a direct translation. Because of this, you have to understand the meaning behind the idiom instead of translating it directly.
An idiom is a group of words with a special meaning different from the literal meaning of those words. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
There are many examples of idioms in English, including the following:
- “A dime a dozen” refers to common items.
- “Cutting corners” means someone is doing a job without being thorough or precise.
- “Pulling your leg” is the same as joking with you.
- “Under the weather” refers to someone feeling ill or simply not feeling perfectly well.
“Revert” is a verb that can stand alone. We cannot properly use it with the word “back.” We can revert quickly, revert happily, or revert bitterly, but we cannot actually “revert back.” If you are tempted to use “revert back,” just remember that “revert” means “to go back” and drop the word “back.” “Revert” only works when we use it alone.
When you go back to an earlier version of a document, you can say, “I will revert to version 2.” When prices return to last year’s levels, you can say, “Gas prices have reverted to the same level as last year.”
Never use “revert back” because it is a redundant statement. However, there are many great instances when you can use “revert” appropriately. Just be aware of the pitfalls, and be precise when using it!