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I understand that both "volver" and "regresar" can mean "to return" as in:

Tengo que regresar mañana...

Tengo que volver mañana...

Is there any difference between these two words? If so, how do I choose which to us in which context?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

They are rather interchangeable, with one key difference: The word "volver" can be used to mean "to repeat" or "to ... again" which is not a meaning "regresar" can take on.

In other words:

"Vuelvo a la casa a las 5./Regreso a la casa a las 5," basically mean the same thing. However:

"No me contestó la primera vez, pero cuando volví a llamar, sí" is correct, but the same sentence using "regresar" is ungrammatical as far as I've heard.

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For most cases, you should be able to use either interchangeably.

However, keep in mind you should say "tengo que volver a hacer el reporte" instead of using "regresar", but only when you mean that you have to do it all over again.

If you mean you have to go back to a physical place, "tengo que regresar a la oficina a hacer el reporte" is just ok and the answer above still holds true.

Or like @AlfredoOsorio mentioned: Tengo que regresar a la oficina para volver a hacer el reporte.

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Puedo usar "volver a Granada" y "regresar a Granada" de forma indistinta.

Y puedo usar "volver a empezar" pero no "regresar a empezar", aunque sí podría decir "regresar al principio".

Pero si sales bien parado de un grave golpe en la cabeza has "vuelto a nacer" pero nunca "regresas a nacer". Si sales mal del accidente, a lo peor, coloquialmente hablando, "te vuelves tonto" pero no "regresas tonto" a menos que te hayas alejado al sufrir el accidente y entres a casa amnésico o dando tumbos.

"Regresar" es siempre sinónimo de "volver" en el sentido de llegar de nuevo al punto de partida, volver a entrar ("ingresar") al lugar de donde se sale (de donde se "egresa" sin "r"). Como vemos la palabra deriva de "egresar", es decir, de un desusado antónimo.

En cambio "volver" tiene muchos significados y sólo en algunos casos se puede considerar el antónimo de salir, partir o egresar.

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There is no difference. But «volver» is less formal than «regresar».

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@Roflo "tengo que regresar a la oficina para volver a hacer el reporte." :) – Alfredo Osorio Feb 2 '13 at 5:53
I moved my comment to a new answer altogether. – Roflo Feb 2 '13 at 16:43
of course there is a difference, there are similar in some aspects. – eLRuLL Feb 3 '13 at 18:12
No, no, no. Just after a pianist end Elisa from Beethoven you can say "Vuelve a tocarla" but never "Regresa a tocarla". Of course, if the pianist is already away from the piano, you can say "Regresa a tocarla", but with the sense of "Regresa al piano para volver a tocarla". There are a BIG difference. – Fran Feb 4 '13 at 22:48

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