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There is a economic term called "return on investment (ROI)."

I wonder if I can only use it a fixed way or if I can use it as a verb "return on" as in the following sentence?

Most of the time, such as large investment schemes can need a substantial amount of money, and it could take years to finish and return on.

or do I have to use "it/them" at the end if I do use "investment" as a subject?

Most of the time, such as large investment schemes can need a substantial amount of money, and it could take years to finish and return on it.

Or should I use another subject all along at best because it is used mostly as noun?

Most of the time, such as large schemes/projects/programs can need a substantial amount of money, and it could take years to finish and realize a return on investment.

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    The idiom is "return on investment". "Return on", by itself, has no idiomatic meaning. – Hot Licks Jan 1 '17 at 13:21
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    You'd want to say produce returns, generate returns, realize returns, or some other verb returns. – Dan Bron Jan 12 '17 at 14:33
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"Return on investment" is a noun phrase, and you will only confuse your readers if you try to use it as a verb. Return is of course also a verb, and one of its meanings is "To provide or bring back in exchange for effort or investment or as a result of ownership; to yield as a return. Freq. in to return a profit" (OED 16a: one citation is "1937 Life 26 July 85/2 (advt.) Big loads return the largest profit on drivers' wages"); you could make use of this to say, for example '...this could take years to return a reasonable income' if you do not wish to say 'this could take years to provide a return'.

But you seem to be asking specifically about the verb return on: there is no such thing. On is a preposition going with return; ;the mere fact that two words occur together in a piece of prose does not make them a recognized phrase, far less an idiom.

  • The only use I can find of the verb return followed by on is in the expression return on board, meaning to re-board a ship. – deadrat Jan 1 '17 at 20:36
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    @deadrat: That could be spelt 'return onboard', but it could not be '*returnon board'. – TimLymington Jan 1 '17 at 22:11
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There are a number of grammatical errors in your sentence.

It is possible to use return, in this sense (and without the on) as a verb, but it wouldn't work very well here.

May I suggest that what you are saying is Most large schemes need substantial investment, and can take years to finish and deliver a return.

This is not to say that return on investment isn't a perfectly valid term. You could equally well say; Most large schemes cost a lot of money, and take years to finish and deliver a return on investment.

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    You might also change deliver to realize – Jim Jan 2 '17 at 5:43
  • @Jim Yes, I agree. That would be more idiomatic. – WS2 Jan 2 '17 at 8:01

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