Volver vs Regresar: What’s the Difference Between these Spanish Verbs?
During the length of your Spanish studies, you’re going to find some verbs with very similar meanings, such as volver and regresar.
However, being very similar doesn’t mean that they’re exactly the same or interchangeable in every situation. For this reason, you have to learn the subtleties of each verb and their variances in meaning.
In this post, I’m introducing you to the regresar vs volver debate, explaining when you should use volver and when you should use regresar. You’re also learning the basic conjugation set for each one of these two Spanish verbs and getting some practice time with an advanced Spanish verbs quiz.
Volver vs Regresar
Volver and regresar are two Spanish verbs that mean “to return,” “to come back,” “to go back,” or “to be back.” Those are all accepted translations and both verbs express very similar ideas. You can say that they’re synonyms and nobody would complain.
However, there are slight differences in meaning and subtle variances in use that are important to understand in order to master these two verbs in Spanish. Let’s dig deeper and learn about them.
When You Should Use Volver
Use volver to talk about returning, coming, or going back to some place or to say that an action will repeat. Don’t use volver to talk about returning objects (use regresar for that: see below).
Let’s see in detail the different cases when you should use volver:
Returning, Coming, or Going Back to a Place
This is the main meaning of volver and its structure is very straightforward:
The conjugated form of volver + a place
And even the place is optional, as sometimes it’s implied by the context.
Ayer volví al trabajo.
Yesterday, I went back to work.
¿Cuándo vuelves a México?
When are you coming back to Mexico?
Ya me voy. Mañana vuelvo. (no need for a place because it’s implied).
I’m leaving. I’ll come back tomorrow.
In all these cases, you could change the verb volver by the verb regresar and the sentences would be grammatically correct. This means that, when talking about returning to a place, volver and regresar are synonyms.
When you talk about actions that repeat themselves you have to use volver and, in this case, using regresar isn’t an option. This might be the biggest difference between these two Spanish verbs. In English, this construction is usually translated with the word “again.”
infinitive or conjugated form of volver + a + infinitive verb
Volveré a jugar fútbol muy pronto.
I’ll play soccer again very soon.
Volví a cometer el mismo error.
I made the same mistake again.
Tienes que volver a hacer el examen.
You have to do the exam again.
When You Should Use Regresar
As mentioned above, regresar can be used to talk about returning, coming, or going back to a place, but also about returning an object. Let’s see both cases.
Returning, Coming, or Going Back to a Place
This is the situation when regresar and volver are interchangeable, and the reason we even have this regresar vs volver discussion.
The conjugated form of regresar + a place
Just as with volver, in some cases, the place isn’t even mentioned and it can be implied by the context.
Mañana regresaré a casa.
Tomorrow, I’ll go back home.
¿Cuándo regresas a trabajar?
When are you coming back to work?
Ayer Miguel regresó de Argentina.
Yesterday, Miguel came back from Argentina.
Returning an Object
This case is exclusive to the Spanish verb regresar and you shouldn’t use volver when you want to say that you’re returning a thing or object in Spanish.
infinitive or conjugated form of regresar + determiner (article, pronoun) + object
Quiero regresar estos zapatos.
I want to return these shoes.
¿Ya regresaste el libro que te prestó María?
Have you given back the book that Maria lent you?
Si no te gusta el regalo, lo puedes regresar a la tienda.
If you don’t like the present, you can return it to the store.
Volver Conjugation Set
Volver is an irregular stem-changing verb. You have to change from -o- to -ue- in some stressed forms. I’m using different translations for the different tenses, so you can see an example for each of them.
|yo vuelvo||I return|
|tú vuelves||you return|
|él/ella vuelve||he/she returns|
|nosotros volvemos||we return|
|ustedes vuelven||you return|
|ellos/ellas vuelven||they return|
|yo volví||I came back|
|tú volviste||you came back|
|él/ella volvió||he/she came back|
|nosotros volvimos||we came back|
|ustedes volvieron||you came back|
|ellos/ellas volvieron||they came back|
|yo volveré||I will go back|
|tú volverás||you will go back|
|él/ella volverá||he/she will go back|
|nosotros volveremos||we will go back|
|ustedes volverán||you will go back|
|ellos/ellas volverán||they will go back|
Regresar Conjugation Set
Regresar is a regular -ar verb, which means that it follows the same conjugation pattern as most Spanish verbs ending in -ar.
|yo regreso||I return|
|tú regresas||you return|
|él/ella regresa||he/she returns|
|nosotros regresamos||we return|
|ustedes regresan||you return|
|ellos/ellas regresan||they return|
|yo regresé||I came back|
|tú regresaste||you came back|
|él/ella regresó||he/she came back|
|nosotros regresamos||we came back|
|ustedes regresaron||you came back|
|ellos/ellas regresaron||they came back|
|yo regresaré||I will go back|
|tú regresarás||you will go back|
|él/ella regresará||he/she will go back|
|nosotros regresaremos||we will go back|
|ustedes regresarán||you will go back|
|ellos/ellas regresarán||they will go back|
Advanced Spanish Verbs Quiz
Test your new advanced Spanish verbs skills with this free interactive quiz!
Fill in the blank:
1. ¿Cuándo _____ Carlos a la escuela?
2. Ayer la maestra de español me _____ el libro que le había prestado
3. Mañana, mis hermanos y yo ______ a casa.
4. ¿Ya _____ la camisa que te prestaron?
5. La próxima semana _____ a trabajar.
6. El mes pasado Karla ______ de España.
7. Mi hermano _______ al trabajo la próxima semana.
8. ¿Cuándo _____ el carro que rentaste?
9. Puedes _____ a dormir.
10. Ya _____ las bicicletas que nos prestaron.
Volver, Regresar y Estudiar Español
“To return,” “to come back,” and “to study” Spanish. That’s a good collection of Spanish verbs! Now you have two more verbs mastered and included in your ever-growing Spanish vocabulary. Don’t forget to introduce them into your real-life conversations in Spanish and practice the different situations to use both volver and regresar.
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