Posted by: janecronin | March 25, 2018


“Volver” means “to return”.  It also means “to go back” and “to come back” which of course mean exactly the same thing anyway: just the English language complicating life again.  “Volver” is a root-changing verb, as “llover” was last week and a number of other verbs we have looked at.  These root-changing verbs (also called radical-changing and stem-changing) follow very consistent patterns and should never be regarded as irregular.  As we have also seen before, these root-changes occur in the present tense and by extension to the present subjunctive.  The present tense conjugation is therefore: Vuelvo (I return); vuelves (you return); vuelve (he,she,it returns, you return – formal), volvemos (we return); volvéis (you return – plural); vuelven (they return, you return –  formal plural).   Notice that the root change of “o” to “ue” always and only occurs in the same four positions.

Some people find the pronunciation of words like “vuelvo” difficult and that is usually because they trip up on the fact that the letter “v” and “b” is pronounced the same.  I spend my life telling people that this particular distinction is far less important that we English speakers presume, but I’m not sure whether anyone has yet believed me.  The Spanish ear tunes principally into the vowel sounds and a range of variations between what we regard as distinct “b” and “v” sounds are permitted without the meaning of the word being lost.  In addition, when this consonant appears at the beginning of a word and followed by a “u”, it tends to disappear anyway.  In other words, you could get away with saying something like “welvo” or “welbo” and be sufficiently clearly understood.

I concentrate on this particular word because it has a number of everyday practical uses.  If you go to a shop or office and find that the person you need is not there, you can say “vuelvo más tarde” (I’ll come back later) or “vuelvo mañana” (I’ll come back tomorrow) or you can ask “¿A qué hora vuelvo?” (What time shall I come back?)  Notice that the idea of “will” and “shall” in this type of situation is covered by using the present tense – literally “I come back” “What time do I come back?”

When you want to express the idea of “returning something” that is “to return” plus an object (e.g. a library book to the library), then you need the verb “devolver”.  It conjugates exactly like “volver” as it is the same word with the added prefix “de”.  So, “I return a book to the library” is “Devuelvo un libro a la biblioteca”.

Also derivative of “volver” is “revolver” which means “to stir” and is therefore a verb you will find in cooking instructions.   Scrambled egg is “revuelto” not to be confused with “revuelta” which means “riot”, which you hope doesn´t break out when you’re having your menu del día.


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