I recently started learning Chinese and my teachers use English as a second language. I noticed that many of them use the phrase "Let's back to (page XYZ)" as opposed to "Let's go back to (page XYZ)". I had been speaking English for about 20 years so far and never stumbled upon this phrase, but Wiktionary says it's a valid verb:

(intransitive) To go in the reverse direction. quotations ▼

the train backed into the station;  the horse refuses to back

So, is "go" needed here?


"Let's" behaves like a modal, and always requires a verb (in the infinitive, or base form.

"Let's back to page 3" is not grammatical in any variety of English that I am aware of.

"Back" can be a verb, but I've only ever heard it in the sense of (physically) moving backwards, not just meaning "go back". It doesn't make sense in that example.

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    Just for the sake of completeness, back as a verb can also mean "to support", as in "Rogers backed Smith for chairman", but your general point is quite correct. – stangdon Jul 12 '18 at 12:26
  • I considered mentioning that, @stangdon, and decided it would just confuse matters for no benefit. – Colin Fine Jul 12 '18 at 14:45

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, back as a verb can mean to (cause to) move backwards. I would only use this word to mean reversing a vehicle.

If I were to talk about moving my own body backwards, I would say go back. Similarly, if I were talking about returning to pages in a book that I have already read, I would say go back.

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    I can imagine "Let's back up to page 3" as an alternative. – J.R. Jul 12 '18 at 11:21
  • @J.R. I can imagine an American saying that, but I (BrE) probably wouldn't for a book- only for a vehicle. – JavaLatte Jul 12 '18 at 22:35

Back can be a verb, but most of its definitions have nothing to do with "go back". The most similar meaning is to "go back" is to move/make something backwards and the structure is obviously different - it is typically

back (verb) + noun + preposition

rather than

back (verb) + preposition

Therefore, I don't think your teacher used a correct expression.

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