BACK as a Noun, Verb, Adjective & Adverb

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Pronunciation:     /bæk/

“back” is a very common word in English. We use “back” in many different situations.

“back” is a noun, verb, adjective and adverb. Let’s look at each one.

back as a noun

There are two uses of “back” as a noun:

 

 

 

  • Part of the body.
  • Opposite of “front”.

Let’s look at each one.

Part of the body

“back” is part of the body as per this photograph:
man back

Examples:
He is lying on his back.
David is scratching his back.

The opposite of “front”

“back” is the opposite of “front”.
“back” describes part of an object that is the furthest from the front.

Examples:
back of bus
The driver is at the front of the bus.
Mark is at the back of the bus.

This is the back of Mark’s hand.
back of hand

There is a towel on the back of the chair.
I found my pen in the back of the drawer.

“back” as a verb

There are two uses of “back” as a verb:

  • To support someone or something.
  • To reverse or move backwards (opposite of forwards).

Let’s look at each one.

support someone or something

Meaning: To give support to someone or something with money or words.

Examples:
people in a meeting
Jane: My colleagues backed my idea during the meeting.

I asked the bank for a loan but they are refusing to back me.
The politicians backed the Prime Minister’s plans.

to back up

Meaning:
To reverse a car.
To drive a car backwards (opposite of forwards).

car forwards and backwards

Example:
Your car is blocking the entrance. Please back up a few metres.

to back into something

Form: back into something
Meaning
: To crash into something while moving backwards.

Example:

car accident
Mark: I had a car accident yesterday.
Jane: What happened?
Mark: I backed into a lamppost!

back as an adjective

“back” as an adjective describes position. The meaning is the opposite of “front”. We write “back” immediately before the noun.

Examples:

Here is the back garden. and here is the back door.

back door and back garden
by freeimages.com/photographer/Ayla87-49541

There is a coat on the back seat of the car. Is it yours?

“back” as an adverb

An adverb modifies a verb. “back” modifies lots of verbs in English and it is this use that causes most confusion to learners of English.

The general meaning of “back” as an adverb is “return”.

In this section we will look at the following verbs and structures:

  • go back
  • put back
  • take back
  • carry back
  • look back
  • doing the same action to someone
  • call back
  • write back

Let’s look at each one in detail.

go back

Meaning: Return to a previous place.

Example:
7 o’clock – Mark leaves home and he goes to London.
home to london
by freeimages.com/photographer/Ayla87-49541

10 o’clock – Mark leaves London and he goes back home.
London to home
by freeimages.com/photographer/Ayla87-49541

put back

Form: put something back
Meaning: Return an object to a previous place.

Example:
I have taken the keys from your bag. I will put them back later.

keys back in bag

take back

Form: take something back
Meaning: Return an object to a previous place.

Example:
The gloves are the wrong size. I am going to take them back to the shop.

gloves back to shop
by freeimages.com/photographer/windchime-38594

carry back

Form: carry something back
Meaning: Return an object to a previous place by carrying it.

Example:
Mark is carrying the boxes back to the lorry.

man carrying boxes back to lorry
by stockimages & digitalart | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

look back

Meaning: Look behind you

Example:
I was walking in the park. I heard a loud noise behind me. I looked back and I saw a dog.

doing the same action to someone

We also use “back” as an adverb to describe doing the same action to someone in return. Someone does an action to you and you do the same action in return. You do it back to them.

Examples:

couple arguing

Jane shouted at Mark and he shouted back at her.
Jane kissed Mark. Mark kissed Jane back.
“If you kick me, I will kick you back!”

call back

Form: call someone back
Meaning: To return a phone call to someone.

Example:
Jane: “Hi Sarah.”
Sarah: “Hi Jane. I can’t talk now. I will call you back tonight.”

write back

Form: write back to someone
Meaning: To reply to someone in writing.

Example:
Manager: We have received an email from Mr Jones.
Jane: Yes I know. I will write back to him later.

Shafey Barakat
CELTA Certified English Instructor
Professionals' Development Analyst
Moodle Administrator

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