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I have two flash cards giving imperfective/perfective pairs corresponding to the meaning "to return":

  • возвращаться/возвратиться
  • возвращаться/вернуться

This was confusing me a lot, as well as making it difficult for me to remember how to best translate "to return", so I tried to see if I could find any distinction between the two pairs.

Wiktionary says for возвратиться:

  1. return, come back

and for вернуться:

  1. to return, to come back (from)
  2. to revert (to)

However, another dictionary I checked (the DictBox app) said for возвратиться:

come back return; regain, recover, join; revert

and for вернуться:

return, be back, make back; cut back; retrace one's steps... return; come back; get back

So these two sources seem to offer conflicting interpretations, because the first seems to imply that возвратиться only has a directional/literal meaning of "changing location to return/come back" whereas вернуться has additional possible metaphorical interpretations/connotations, while the second source seems to imply that вернуться doesn't have any metaphorical interpretations while возвратиться does, i.e. the exact opposite of what the first source implies.

Is the difference perhaps that one is unidirectional (concrete verb) and the other is multidirectional (abstract verb)?

Are they exact synonyms? Or even if they sometimes do mean the same thing, do they ever mean different things?

Also, what is the most common meaning/usage of each, and do these most common meanings/usages agree?

Note: I am aware that I probably would not be confused if I were using better dictionaries. The best dictionaries seem to have entries in Russian, however, and I do not read Russian well enough yet to get much out of such dictionaries. This is one reason why I am trying to improve my understanding of the most commonly used words in Russian, so I can use such dictionaries and avoid these ambiguities -- right now it is something of a Catch 22 situation for me personally.

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    I cannot construct a phrase in which "возвратиться" could not be replaced with "вернуться" or vice versa. This doesn't mean that these two verbs are absolutely interchangeable but in most of cases they are. – Abakan Feb 17 '17 at 9:33
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    It are synonyms, which have different origin... – rpc1 Feb 17 '17 at 10:16
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The perfective form возвратиться has exactly the same meaning as вернуться in the same context. However, возвратиться has sufficiently limited usage: it's bookish/lofty style and it's mainly applicable to a person's comeback (almost never used with things). It is much more often found in pop songs than in colloquial speech. So if in doubt, it is always safe to use вернуть(ся). Maybe the only case you can't ignore the form возвратить(ся) is its derivative form for passive voice: быть возвращённым (был возвращён, etc. - for both people and things) - it can't be derived from вернуть(ся).

  • возвращённый is from возвращать , аn imperfective verb. вернуть does not form imperfective, so возвращать is used as a suppletive. It's a grammatic limitation, not semantic. If we consider past active participles, something you can form from a perfective verb, I can't think of any significant usage differences between возвративший and вернувший either – Quassnoi Feb 18 '17 at 4:51
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    Are you sure возвращённый isn't from возвратить? Past passive participles do have the same stem as the я form (я возвращу). So that'd give возвращённый (like обратить > обращённый). – Curt Feb 24 '17 at 19:29
  • @curt: you're right, brain lapse on my part. вернуть, however, still does not form a past passive participle. – Quassnoi Feb 25 '17 at 18:27
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A lot of time I see the word "возвратиться" when I read some books and I do not usually use in a daily life a lot either compared to the word "вернуться". Both words are correct and has a same meaning tho; the only thing is that you should know how to use in a proper way.

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Когда я возвращался домой, я пританцовывал/танцевал.
Когда я возвращался домой, я увидел чудовище.
Когда я вернулся домой, я побежал в туалет.
Когда я возвращал товар, менеджер плакал.
Когда я вернул товар, менеджер расплакался/начал плакать/заплакал.
Маша вернулась домой. - Masha have come home. / Masha came home.
Маша возвращалась домой. - Masha was coming/going home.
Аня не хотела возвращаться домой.
Аня не могла вернуться домой.
Возват товара не предусмотрен.
возвратно-поступательное движение = reciprocation
but reciprocate = двигаться вперед-назад
Возвратиться is of very seldom use

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