Kids started back to school in late August.

AmE source. Shouldn't there be anything between "started" and "back," like "going"?

I searched, and there are numerous results with this exact phrasing. I always thought you start doing smth (opening) or to do smth (to open) or simply smth (the opening ceremony). How come "back"?

  • 1
    Hm, I'll have to think more—it's idiomatic—but the distinction is in how "start" is being used. Start can be intransitive: you don't just "start" (that is, initiate) an activity; you can also "start" by itself: "I'm ready! When do we start?" You could also attach a preposition: "We start northward at dawn." In this sense, when you return home, you "start back." I think this notion is getting mixed with the phrase "back to school" as if the meaning is "start back [towards] school." Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 19:52
  • @AndyBonner Yes, I agree, it looks like "back to school" and "start back" are fused into one. I'm curious if it's slang or something more common, like a freshly-coined idiom.
    – Diane Mik
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 19:56

1 Answer 1


It is idiomatic. You may consider "start back" to be a compound word and a phrasal verb, meaning to "return and restart". Although idiomatic, it is also rather informal. A more formal phrasing could be "Children returned to school..."

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