Can you give an example of when 帰る should be used instead of 戻る, and vice versa?

The reason I ask is that I sometimes get corrected when using the two, such as in:

× そのとき私は日本から戻ってきて、大学に戻って入りました。 (ignore the other problems with this ☺)
○ そのとき私は日本から帰ってきて、大学に戻りました

2 Answers 2


Examples would be

  • 仕事に戻る。(go back to work from appointment or something)

  • 家に帰る。(go back to home, (when there is no plan in mind to go back to same place for today))

  • 財布忘れたので家に一旦戻る。(Forgot the wallet and go back to home once (need to go back same route again))

  • 1
    Is it true that 帰る can only be used when you return to home-related places (e.g. house, home country etc)?
    – Lukman
    Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 12:07
  • 1
    Okay, so if I live in the US I would say アメリカに帰る not アメリカに戻る and 日本に戻る instead of 日本に帰る? Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 12:08
  • @Louis, do you have plan in your mind (now) to go back to same place after you going back to アメリカ? if so you can also use 戻る。But if you gonna stay too long there, may be 帰る is more suitable。
    – YOU
    Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 12:10
  • @Louis, Regarding your first comment about 帰る, that's true, IMHO.
    – YOU
    Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 12:14
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    帰る gives the sense of going back to someplace that's considered like a "home base". So not only your actual home, country, etc., but could be some place with a home-like feeling to it (your relatives' town, the city where you went to college, etc.)
    – istrasci
    Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 15:35

For an English speaker, 'お店に戻ってパイをもう一杯食べてから帰ります。' [I'm going back to the shop for another pie, then going home.] may be a good example using both verbs.

Many languages have idioms relating to 'home'. In English, we miss out the preposition 'to'. Japanese doesn't seem to need '家に' with '帰ります'.

'プレゼントを返します。' [I'm returning a gift.] uses another verb [at least different kanji], while English can use the same verb 'return' for all three.

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