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Back or Again
AGAIN and BACK may be tricky words for foreigners. Very often, they are mixed up, simply because Learners don't think of their real meanings enough... Let's try to repeat what may still be a little confused...
These two words often correspond to the French prefix 're-' placed in front of a verb. ( come again/back, send again/back, etc.) No real distinction is made in French...
1. AGAIN+ verb: expresses a repetition. A word, or an action is repeated. Again is generally placed at the end of the clause.
- I couldn't see what you did very well... Can you do it again, please?
- I called her again and again, but couldn't get her before the weekend.
2. BACK+ verb: expresses a return to a starting point, to a preceding situation, or an answer to an intervention, whatever means is used. Back is also a noun meaning "the rear part of".
- The tennisman won't play the following match, as he hurt his badly and is still receiving treatment.
- There's a new restaurant at the of our building.
* To BACK may be a verb meaning «to move backward».
- During his driving test he his car into a tree, and failed his test.
BACK: may be placed between a verb and its direct object, or after the verb.
- Paula gave me my money back.
- Don't forget to take the books back to the library before Monday.
'BACK' SHOULDN'T BE USED: when the verb contains the idea of a return.
- I will never return to you after all you did to me. (not... return back to you...)
- I told you not to close the door; now open it. (not...open it back)
USED WITH PARTICLES, BACK and AGAIN have the same meaning.
- He stood up and then sat backdown./ He stood up and then sat down again.
- I went back to sleep./ I went to sleep again.
- To sell back: you sell the object you had bought (to the same person)
- I had bought those second-hand ski boots but as they didn't fit, I sold them back.
As you see, you just have to think a little: AGAIN indicates a repetition whereas BACK expresses a return to a situation you have already lived. Easy, isn't it?
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