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I always avoid using revert back in a sentence because it's redundant. Surprisingly, YourDictionary has mentioned it in one of the instances.

Revert Sentence Examples:
Thereafter, the manor reverted to the colvill family.
The future of the competition scheduled from now on for may, 2006 saw the event revert back to a bombing competition.
Remember, most mortgages revert to the svr after any initial " honey trap " discount.
Revert back to a previous state?

Can anyone enlighten me about this usage? I'm pretty sure using revert back to me in an email is incorrect. Tell me if I'm wrong.

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  • I see 85 results for revert back in COCA. That's enough to make me think that there's nothing wrong with it. By the way, language is highly redundant by nature, and redundancy is not by definition incorrect.
    – user230
    Nov 16 '13 at 12:42
  • I don't see anything wrong with revert back in OP's cited examples. You could perhaps have a contrived context like "I turn into a werewolf when the moon is full, but luckily I always revert back to me in daylight, so nobody at work has noticed anything odd about me". But generally, the only things that could revert back to me would be things that were originally mine (and are now mine again, having been assigned to someone else for some intervening period). Nov 16 '13 at 22:37
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    The always and any in your first sentence are more egregiously redundant than is back in the examples. Nov 17 '13 at 0:05
  • @jwpat7. Oh. That is right. Corrected. Thank you for pointing out.
    – Maulik V
    Nov 17 '13 at 13:28
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There is no general rule that a language construct such as a phrase or sentence must not contain redundancy.

In some of the world's languages we find, for instance, double negative constructs, which are mandatory. In English sentences, the subject and verb must agree in number, and so that is redundancy: for instance "you are" conveys plurality in two words, where one would suffice (and language can do without plurals entirely).

It may be your personal stylistic preference to avoid "revert back", but it's used by native speakers.

Some usages are more euphonic than others.

"Revert the software back to the previous version" doesn't sound bad.

"Return back home" is mildly awkward.

Note that in some uses of "give back", the "back" is semantically redundant, even though its presence is preferred over its absence. For instance, when we tell someone "give it back to me", the "back" appears even if nobody is listening other than the person we are speaking to (nobody is being informed that the situation is one of an item being returned rather than granted) and both parties already know the situation.

Also, note this common construction:

Give me back my [object]!

The "back" is clearly redundant because it's my object and you have it; "give me my [object]" by itself already means "return my object".

Perhaps because of patterns like this, English speakers are somewhat prepared to accept a redundant "back".

Also note this pattern:

Return my [object] to me!

Of course, if it's my object, returning is directed to me if nobody else is mentioned; there is redundancy: return my [object]!" already says everything. If the speaker wants his object returned to Bob rather than to herself, then Bob has to be explicitly mentioned: "Please return my pen to Bob."

I'm afraid that if you want to fight redundancy in language, you will face some lonely and difficult battles ahead, and ultimately redundancy will win the war.

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As She has grown older Great Mother English has become increasingly fond of phrasal verbs, and of Her Bounty often invents new ones which are not strictly necessary. As Lear says,

O reason not the need. The basest beggar is in the poorest thing superfluous.

Particularly with verbs expressing literal or figurative motion, She today finds a bare verb meagre and unsatisfying. Latin or Greek prefixes are feeble alien devices; GME demands an adverb or preposition to energize a movement and provide direction.

Consequently, progress forward, continue on and revert back are now common in ordinary speech. Only in the most rigorous academic contexts do we find these verbs without their particular adornments; and the common reader feels this parsimony to be vaguely miserly and ungenerous.

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