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I'm arguing with my girlfriend (we are not native English speakers), what is the proper form, go back home or come back home.

For example, consider two versions:

  1. I will go to the office and then go back home.
  2. I will go to the office and then come back home.

My girlfriend thinks the first version is wrong and only the second version is correct. I claim that both versions are correct and mean more or less the same, however the first version focuses more on the journey home itself, and the second one emphasizes the fact of reaching the destination (the home), but they can be used interchangeably as long as I want to express that I will go there and back (visit that two particular locations). and then I will leave (e.g. I will leave the office and probably I will head home, but it's not guaranteed that I will reach home or head home directly - I want to emphasize departure from the office rather that the arrival home).

What it the native speakers' take on that?

There are two similar questions:

Come back vs Go back

"I want to come there" or "I want to go there"

But they touch the problem from slightly different angles.

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Come home/Go home isn't merely a style choice. The meaning is different. "Come home" communicate that you think the listener will be there and you've based plans on that. By default "go home" communicates the opposite. Choosing go in "then I'll go home" might communicate that you remember they're staying at their mom's tonight. It would be normal to correct a wrong use: "I'll go home after", "I'll actually be home -- remember my Yoga classes were cancelled this week?", "Ah, yes. I'm glad you're an idiomatic English speaker and caught that distinction -- I'll change my plans accordingly".

If you overheard a friend calling his wife to say "this play is terrible, I'm going to go home", you'd assume his wife wasn't home. You might suggest you two do something else. Whereas "...I'm coming home" means his wife is home, expecting him.

The normal meanings also suggest closeness. With a new roommate, "coming home" would be odd. It suggests you might do something together at home, with someone you barely know. Likewise "going home" to a spouse you know is home suggests your relationship has disintegrated to where no longer care where they are.

For going to other places, or in longer sentences, come/go has the same difference. Take "I'm going to the bowling alley, Pete's Pizza, coming to your office, then going home". coming reinforces that the office visit is to see them, probably with the pizza. "going to your office, then coming home" communicates that you know they won't be at the office -- you have some other reason to go. But since you said "coming home", and not "going", you know to get pizza for 2. If relatives live in Florida, "we'll go to Florida this August" suggest you don't plan to visit them. If you'd used come but they were spending August in Toledo, they'd naturally correct you.

Coming/going to work is a small exception, but the same idea. You'd use "coming to work" with a boss or a co-worker who had a direct interest in you doing the work. Suppose you had 2 jobs. "I can come in at 3, but I have to go to my other job at 6" or "they want me to go in at noon, but I can probably come in here at 3". In this case we don't care if the boss is there or not, but come still carries extra information -- which workplace is special to the listener.

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This is really hard to answer because it depends on the speaker's and the listener's point of view. It can also depend on their imagined points of view at the future time the action is planned to happen.

I will go to the office and then go back home.

The speaker and listener are both away from home and away from the office. Or, the listener will not be at home or the office when the planned action takes place.

I will go to the office and then come back home.

The speaker and listener are both at their home, or planning to be at home when the action starts. The listener will remain at home during the action.

I will come to the office and then go back home.

The speaker and listener are both at the office, or imagining being at the office.

I will come to the office and then come back home.

The speaker and listener are both at the office but the listener will be at home before the speaker.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Aug 13 at 23:01
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From the point of view of a person at your home, you are "coming home".

From the point of view of a person at your office, you are "going home".

What about your own point of view as you go? It could be either, depending on how you are thinking of it.

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  • But what if I'm saying "I will go to the office and then go back home." when I'm still at home? Is it strictly correct? My thinking is "I'm at home now, so I will GO to work, but then I will be at work so I will GO back home.". @GEdgar so does it mean that the both versions are correct or not? – ciechowoj Aug 3 at 21:32
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    @ciechowoj When or if you are still at home, you would say: "I'm going to the office [away from your location] and will then come back home [tp your present location]". – Lambie Aug 3 at 22:31
  • @ciechowoj - If you say that then the implication is that the listener won't be at the home when the speaker returns. I've tried to explain this in my answer but it is difficult. – chasly - supports Monica Aug 3 at 22:38
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go and come is used in relation to the location of the speaker or the listener:

  • I am at the office. I will be going home in an hour.

  • Your mate might ask you in that regard on the telephone: What time are you coming home? [Your mate is at home. Your mate is the speaker.]

You might answer that: I'm coming home soon. However, you might also say: I'll be home soon.

In short, you go to a place where you or the listener are not. And someone comes to a place where you are or the listener are.

You are at work: Someone asks you at work: What time do you come to work? What time do you go home?

You are at home: Someone asks you at home: What time do you go to work? What time do you come home?

In short, towards the location of the speaker or listener: come, away from the location of the speaker or listener, go

[Please note that bring and take follow the same pattern.

  • I shall take my son to school at 8. [away from the speaker's location].
  • Please bring me my shoes. [spoken to another person the speaker's location.]

AmE tends to get rid of this altogether and uses bring for just about everything. So, you get utterances like: When are you bringing him to practice? even though the kid is being taken away from the direction of the speaker.]

If the speaker location thing is not true, go and come would basically be interchangeable and they are most definitely not.

BBC ENGLISH

Summary Non-native speakers often have difficulty distinguishing between the verbs go and come and the verbs take and bring. This is because the verbs have the same basic meaning, but they are used to represent different directions.

Come and bring

Come and bring represent movement TOWARDS the place where the speaker or listener is.

We can use come and bring to show movement towards the speaker:

Please come to my house this evening and bring a bottle of Cola. Or, movement towards the listener:

Are you still sick? Can I come and see you? I can bring some aspirin. Go and take

Go and take represent movements AWAY from where the speaker or listener is.

John, I always go back to Brazil once a year. I like to take my family gifts. (The speaker and listener are not in Brazil.) John, can you go to the shop for me and buy some bread? Take this money to pay. (The speaker and listener are not in the shop.)

These verbs can be combined:

I think tomorrow night I’ll go to the cinema. I’ve got to take my loyalty card for a discount. Would you like to come? You can bring a friend.

BBC English

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  • Not always true. You could say to your spouse, "I'm at work but I'm coming home soon." – chasly - supports Monica Aug 3 at 22:21
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    @chasly-reinstateMonica It is always true. You should say: I'm at work but I'm leaving soon. OR: I'll be home soon. By the way, you can say whatever you like, The spouse would ask: Are you coming home soon? And you could answer that specific question with the verb come but there is still that difference between come to the place where you the speaker are and go to a place you are not. – Lambie Aug 3 at 22:28
  • I have made an answer to cover my version. – chasly - supports Monica Aug 3 at 22:32
  • @Lambie the source you quote contradicts your answer, as it clearly says "come" can indicate movement towards the location of either the speaker or the listener. – Especially Lime Aug 4 at 7:04
  • @EspeciallyLime Yes, I will amend my answer. Thanks. – Lambie Aug 4 at 16:07
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When speaking to someone, I would say that it is all about where they are as the listener.

Talking to your spouse:

  • If you are at your home with your spouse, you are going to the office
  • If you are at the office and your spouse is at your home, you are coming home

Talking to your boss:

  • If your boss is at their home and you are at your home, you are going to the office
  • If your boss is at the office and you are at your home, you are coming to the office
  • Unless your boss is at your home, you are going home

Talking to someone else, a service provider maybe (plumber, electrician, etc...) doing work at your home:

  • If they would like to meet you at your home, you are going home
  • If they are at your home waiting for you, you are coming home

In the U.S. home may have multiple meanings if you live apart from your parents (or those that raised you).

Talking to parents if you live apart from your parents:

  • If you are going to your home, you may say going home
  • If you are going to their home, you may say coming home, if you do or did consider their home your home, even if they are not home at the time of the speaking

Talking to anyone else, not at your home or parents' home, there would be context needed to mean your parents home:

  • I am going home for the holidays

Adding back to any of these is not necessary but that may depend on where you as the speaker are at the time and/or one of the places of origin in your statement.

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