I need to know what is the difference between “look back at”, “look back on” and “look back to”. I have understood that they all mean “to remember” so I don’t know where I should use each one.

3 Answers 3


The differences in meaning are subtle but real. "Look back on" suggests rumination or reflection, and often has a hint of summing things up or even of nostalgia.

As I look back on our organization's 125-year history...

"Look back to" is often used in contexts involving trying to figure out how to handle some situation where the notion is to find ideas, guidance, or inspiration by considering how a similar situation was handled in the past.

In preparing his inaugural address, Barack Obama looked back to those of Lincoln, FDR, and JFK.

"Look back at" sort of straddles the other two.


Look back at the picture before you answer the question.

To see the answer, look back on the screen.

For me, I think it's good to look back to the past.


To 'Look back' is to remember, but it also carries a sense of remembering for a purpose - to examine the past.

I don't think that the 'at/on/to' part is as important to understand than what it means to look back. They would simply be used to complete your thought and as a matter of style.

For example:

When I look back to the way I behaved that fateful day, The regret becomes overwhelming.

When I look back on my actions that fateful day, The regret becomes overwhelming.

When I look back at what I did that fateful day, The regret becomes overwhelming.

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