Retourner can be used with avoir or être in Le Passé Composé... and changes meaning

Most verbs use either avoir or être as the auxiliary verb in Passé composé (or other compound tense)but retourner uses both, depending on its grammatical usage* and what it means in the sentence.
 
*Grammaphile's Corner : the technical grammatical distinction between these cases is actually whether the verb is used in a transitive or intransitive manner. 
- The transitive version (the version with a direct object) uses avoir.
- The intransitive version (lacking a direct object), uses être.

être + retourné [quelque part]

= to go back [somewhere]
= to return [somewhere]

Je suis retourné dans le village où je t'avais rencontré.
I returned to the village where I had met you.

C'était tellement amusant qu'il y est retourné plus tard.
It was such fun that he went back later!

Note that in each case where être is the auxilliary, the verb retourner is followed by a preposition (en, sur, dans, à etc.).  
So, in these cases retourner is usually about going back somewhereor returning somewhere.

See also Agreeing past participle with subject's gender and number with (+ être) verbs in Le Passé Composé

ATTENTION
Retourner means to go back / home whereas revenir means to come back.

 

avoir + retourné [quelque chose]

= to turn [something] upside down
= to turn [something] inside out 
= to turn [something] back to front

J'ai retourné ce pull parce qu'il gratte.
I turned this jumper inside out because it itches.

Il a retourné sa casquette pour faire cool.
He turned his cap back to front to look cool.

Tu as retourné la poubelle pour trouver tes clés!
You turned the bin upside down to find your keys!

When retourner is followed immediately by a noun (as opposed to a preposition), it uses avoir as the auxiliary, like most verbs.   
ATTENTION: 
Retourner never means to return (something) in the context of a shop for example.
In French, we use rapporter (to bring back) or échanger [quelque chose] instead:

Elle a rapporté cette jupe comme elle était trop petite.
She returned this skirt as it was too small.

  
 
Here is the list of all "two-auxiliaryverbs in compound tenses:
 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Tu as retourné la poubelle pour trouver tes clés!
You turned the bin upside down to find your keys!


C'était tellement amusant qu'il y est retourné plus tard.
It was such fun that he went back later!


Il a retourné sa casquette pour faire cool.
He turned his cap back to front to look cool.


Elle a rapporté cette jupe comme elle était trop petite.
She returned this skirt as it was too small.


J'ai retourné ce pull parce qu'il gratte.
I turned this jumper inside out because it itches.


Je suis retourné dans le village où je t'avais rencontré.
I returned to the village where I had met you.


Q&A Forum 6 questions, 15 answers

On the question I got wrong you have vous êtes retourné. Shouldn't it be retournés

Asked 8 months ago
Vous êtes retourné. -- You have returned (speaking to a single person, addressed formally).
Vous êtes retournés. -- You have returned (addressing a group of people).

On the question I got wrong you have vous êtes retourné. Shouldn't it be retournés

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Why do you not add an s to retourné when you say - vous y êtes retourné?

I thought that when you use être the pp always agrees with the subject. 
Asked 10 months ago
ChrisC1Correct answer

Vous y êtes retourné refers to a single person in formal "you". 

Vous y êtes retournés addresses a group of people, hence plural and hence retournés

CécileKwiziq language super star

Hi Catriona,

Without the context it is hard to tell.

Vous can be singular or plural...

Thanks for pointing this out. I have always been adding the s to the pp when using être as the auxiliary verb and the vous form regardless of whether singular or plural. Oops!  

Why do you not add an s to retourné when you say - vous y êtes retourné?

I thought that when you use être the pp always agrees with the subject. 

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Is renverser equally good or better for implying "turn upside down"?

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi David,

The verb renverser has many different meanings in French  including to tilt, to spill, to knock down (in a car), to turn roundto invert, to overthrow...

The lesson here is concentrating on the different meanings of 'retourner' whether you use 'avoir' or 'être'.

Hope this helps!

Thank you, Cécile.

I agree as far the lesson goes, but in real life could I use either word equally to mean "turn upside down" or is renverser inappropriate for some cases. I first learned renverser but since  retourner is confusing due to its double usage I would rather avoid it. 

E.g. "J'ai retourné le sablier" or "j'ai renversé le sablier" for "I inverted the hourglass".

CécileKwiziq language super star

Unfortunately, if you say, "J'ai renversé le sablier", we hear:

"I knocked the egg timer over",

so no, you can't interchange the two verbs.

Bonne continuation!

 

Thank you Cécile.

That is the really hard part about learning languages, even my native English - what is the right word to use in each situation.

TomC1

That's very interesting, got me thinking since I, like you David,  would habitually use renverser in this situation.

Harraps French/English dictionary gives a meaning of "renverser" as "to turn upside down", equivalent to "retourner exprès"

Collins/Robert treats it similarly : "to turn upside down" equivalent, "mettre à l'envers" and provides a sample usage: "renverser un seau - to turn a bucket upside down"

Finaly L'Académie française 9e édition.

2. Mettre à l'envers, retourner ; basculer dans la position contraire à celle qui est habituelle ou qui précède. Renverser une barque quille en l'air pour la réparer. Couvrir un plat d'une assiette renversée. 

Is renverser equally good or better for implying "turn upside down"?

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Turn things up side down in present tense?

Here when the verb retourner goes with avoir in past tense, then it means to turn things up side down or inside out. How do you say it in present tense or in imperative? Merci.
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq language super star
Bonjour John ! The distinction of meaning linked to "avoir" or "être" is only relevant to compound tenses. When you use "retourner" in simple tenses, like Le Présent, L'Impératif, L'Imparfait etc, it can mean either of these meanings. Here the context will tell which one it is: "Je retourne ma veste." (I'm turning my jacket inside out.) "Tu retournais la voir souvent." (You used to go back to see her often.) "Pour enlever la plante, retourne doucement le pot." (To remove the plant, gently turn the pot upside down.) I hope that's helpful! À bientôt !

Turn things up side down in present tense?

Here when the verb retourner goes with avoir in past tense, then it means to turn things up side down or inside out. How do you say it in present tense or in imperative? Merci.

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AurélieKwiziq language super star

Graham asked: "Il doit y avoir la lettre s à la terminaison du mot retourné? vous êtes retournés "

Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq language super star
Bonjour Graham !​ ​I understand your confusion but here is the explanation: ''vous'' can, as you know, be used both for plural you, and for polite, formal you. In the second case, it has a singular meaning, as it relates to a single person. So in le Passé Composé, when you use the formal 'vous', it will agree with the single person it refers to: it was the case here, therefore ''Vous êtes retourné [...]''. Moreover, in different contexts, you could also encounter the plural versions ''Vous êtes retournés'' or ''Vous êtes retournées'' (for a whole woman group), as well as the feminine version ''Vous êtes retournée''. " ​ ​You can also have a look at our lesson on agreement with "être" in Le Passé Composé Agreeing past participle with subject's gender and number with (+ être) verbs in Le Passé Composé I hope that's helpful! À bientôt !
GrahamC1
Vous m'avez beaucoup aidé. Merci.

Graham asked: "Il doit y avoir la lettre s à la terminaison du mot retourné? vous êtes retournés "

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Prepositions

"Marie est retournée le voir le lendemain" - how come there's no preposition ("pour", say) following retournée here, which the lesson says should always follow retourner when conjugated with être?
Asked 3 years ago
I guess the preposition (one of location! so "pour" wouldn't count anyway) is a good indicator that it is the intransitive version of the verb but the intransitive version of the verb does not necessarily demand a preposition. However the lack of a direct object shows that "retourner" is used intransitively here and therefore has to be conjugated with "être".

"Pour" is optional in this case, as far as I understand it. For the sake of translation, "le voir" is already equivalent to "to see it", but you could add "pour". "Il vient nous sauver" = "il vient pour nous sauver". There may be a slight difference in nuance, but it's essentially the same.

+1

Prepositions

"Marie est retournée le voir le lendemain" - how come there's no preposition ("pour", say) following retournée here, which the lesson says should always follow retourner when conjugated with être?

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Getting that for you now.