come back vs. get back

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat Nov 2 16:16:53 UTC 2013

Is it possible that "come/came" is often chosen when there is some
emphasis on the action of returning, on the journey, and "get/got"
when the emphasis is on the arrival?

I come back at five -- my trip always/generally starts (or perhaps,
ends) at five.
I came back at five -- that day my trip began (ended) at five.
I get back at five -- I always/generally arrive at my destination at five.
I got back at five -- that day I arrived at my destination at five.

These would probably be my choices -- if some linguist forced me to
think about them.  Although those who think "come/came" equates to
"arrive" might use either "come" or "get" at random.  I suspect a
lawyer would demand that the witness clarify by saying "leave/left"
or "arrive/arrived".


At 11/1/2013 07:47 PM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>In the context of just returning to the locale such as after
>traveling abroad, "I just came back" does not seem bad, though I
>still prefer the "get" version.
>It's when you go out on errands or something and then arrive at home
>or work that "I just came back" seems odd. BB
>On Nov 1, 2013, at 4:38 PM, Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM> wrote:
> > I have a real problem with, "I just came back."
> >
> > I suppose "I've just come back" is fine, but it uses the perfect,
> which sounds unnecessary. Instead, it seems, "I just got back" is
> far preferable.
> >
> > In the present tense (I come/get back everyday at 3 o'clock),
> "get" seems better though I don't have a problem with the "come" version.
> >
> > For "When I come/get back," I don't notice much of a difference,
> though "get" seems preferable.
> >
> > It seems possible that the awkwardness of the perfect tense and
> the irregular conjugation of "come" is causing the problem, but
> "get" also has an irregular conjugation. Is there a real difference
> in the meanings of "come back" and "get back"? Is something else
> going on? (Is it all in my head?)
> >
> > Benjamin Barrett
> > Seattle, WA
> >
> > Learn Ainu!
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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