Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Which is the correct usage when I tell someone that I am back?

I am back to [some city]

Or

I am back in [some city]

share|improve this question
3  
I've edited "city" in OP's examples to "[some city]", since I assume he expects to substitute the name of some particular city in any actual utterance. The word "city" itself isn't used in any such construction, though we can certainly say "I am back in town". –  FumbleFingers Jun 7 '12 at 13:02
    
But you can say, "I am back in the city." –  Jay Jun 7 '12 at 14:23
    
You can't be to London, but you can have been to London. Perhaps this is confusing the OP. –  Peter Shor Jun 7 '12 at 19:22
add comment

4 Answers

up vote 0 down vote accepted

FumbleFingers comment on EdGuiness answer is, I think, the real answer. When you are describing a destination, using a verb such as "go", you use the preposition "to". When you are describing a "state of being", using a verb such as "to be", you use the preposition "in".

I go to Detroit.

I am in Detroit.

I travelled to Detroit.

I live in Detroit.

Note that if you do use a non-proper noun like "city" or "town", you need to include an article.

I live in a city.

I went to the town.

Side note: "Town" without an article has a varity of special meanings. "I live in town" means that I live within the city limits, as in:

Bob: I live in the suburbs. Alice: Oh, I live in town.

"I am/was/will be in town" means that I am in the city under discussion as opposed to travelling somewhere else. Like:

"I was on a business trip last weekend, but this weekend I'm staying in town."

"We went to town" can mean that we went to the city under discussion, but it is also a slang term meaning we had a wild party or had sexual relations.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I went to Melbourne to visit my old chess club.

Now I am back in London, where it is raining.

Some time soon I will go to Brisbane for the sunshine. (It's too hot there, for chess)

And then after Brisbane, I will come back to London, to the rain.

share|improve this answer
1  
The verb tense is irrelevant - all that matters is that to go is used with the preposition "to", whereas to be is used with "in". –  FumbleFingers Jun 7 '12 at 13:13
    
@FF I'm still fiddling with this answer but perhaps I should leave it now, and get back to something more productive. –  Ed Guiness Jun 7 '12 at 13:14
    
+1 Thanks @EdGuiness, got it now. When it is about place we use in, when it is about destination it is to. FF some people know more verbs then go for moving your body in the surrounding like walk, travel and ect. My answer is not correct so I remove it. –  speedyGonzales Jun 7 '12 at 13:20
    
The verb tense isn't completely irrelevant, because there is a common idiom which confounds the simple rule. "Have been to " means "Have visited", so you can say "Have you been to London?". But this idiom is only in perfect tenses: you can't say "*I am to London" or "*I was to London". –  Colin Fine Jun 7 '12 at 23:07
add comment

The word "back" should fit in there in a way that it would still be Ok even if it was removed:

I am to the city. = X

I am in the city. = Ok

I have come to the city. = Ok

I have gone to the city. = Ok

We then return "back" and we have:

I am back to the city. = X

I am back in the city. = Ok

I have come back to the city. = Ok

I have gone back to the city. = Ok

share|improve this answer
add comment

The correct usage is "I am back in [some city]".

The word "to" does not work with the verb "to be" in this context, since it's used as a preposition that means "toward" or "in the direction of".

You cannot be to a location, but you can go to a location, as examples from other answers show.

share|improve this answer
    
I just knew that someone would find an exception to that "rule". –  JeffSahol Jun 7 '12 at 19:24
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.