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Normally when talking about journeys or buying tickets (e.g. for a bus or train) you have "single" or "return", when return means "there and back again". If you want to "just go home", you can buy a "single" ticket in the other direction.

However, what happens if I wish to make a distinction between "single", "return-only" and "return"?

When presented together, the 3 options seem clear enough to me. But "return" becomes ambiguous when used on its own. I am considering using "full-return", but it feels a bit clumsy. Is there any clearer terminology?

Other possibilities:

  • "Single", "Return-only", "Return"
  • "Single-outgoing", "Single-return", "Full-return"
  • "There", "Back again", "There and back again"

Edit: I should clarify that this is for transport software where the distinction between "single" and "return-only" matters (because one end is always the person's home address).

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You might consider using, one-way; return; round[-]trip

one-way

valid for travel in one direction only: a one-way ticket.

round trip

A trip to a given place and back again.

Random House

  • round-trip is a good idea. That could work – SystemParadox Apr 1 '16 at 11:07
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    This either assumes that people will stop using 'return ticket' the way they usually do (look up 'return ticket'), or that the usage is not intended to be general English, or that ambiguity is permissible. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 1 '16 at 13:04
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I'd avoid the word return completely in this case. Here's why: if you buy a return rail ticket here in the UK, it's made up of an outward part and a return part these parts are pieces of card otherwise known as tickets. Thus a return ticket is part of a return ticket. You can't dodge this ambiguity (which you allude to in your question).

Given that, your best combination is probably:

  • outbound
  • inbound or home(ward)bound
  • round trip

(All words given in other answers, but not in this combination)

In a more conventional situation none of these would be the first choice in (my) British English.

  • This is the wrong sort of polysemy-with-hyponymy. It's a wonder the trains are still running. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 1 '16 at 15:43
  • @EdwinAshworth, when you combine popular usage with bureaucratese, strange things happen to the language. – Chris H Apr 1 '16 at 15:45
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Perhaps one-way outbound and one-way homebound would disambiguate the single-leg journeys.

Round-trip / round trip seems pretty common.

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Let me use a real life example, I go to a ticket office in London, knowing I will spending a weekend in Hull.

  • I would like a single to Hull - Implies you will take the train there and make your own way back.
  • I would like a single from Hull to London - Implies you will make your own way to hull and travel back on the train.
  • I would like a return to Hull - Implies you will travel to Hull and back on the train.
  • I would like a return from Hull to London - Implies you will make your own way to Hull and then take the train to London and back to Hull.

I have never heard someone use the phase "return-only". In common use, a single is a single journey from A to B or B to A. A return is A-B-A or B-A-B.

  • Yes as stated in the question I know this is the common usage. However, this is for software where the distinction between A-B or B-A matters. – SystemParadox Apr 1 '16 at 11:05
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    Your "return from Hull to London" could equally mean Hull->London->Hull. That's the interpretation the ticket office would put on it because they don't care where you live. – Chris H Apr 1 '16 at 12:03
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    @SystemParadox But ELU is a general English website; suggestions for novel usages, especially for software, are specifically off-topic. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 1 '16 at 13:11

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