turn <back> the pages

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stephenlearner

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,

I am teaching kids how to use their dictionary.

I ask them to find the word "vessel".They get to the word "tree".

I say, do you turn the pages or turn back the pages?

Do I sound natural?

Thanks a lot.
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    No. You need to express the idea in this way:

    "Which way are you going through the dictionary? [From A to Z or Z to A?]"
     

    stephenlearner

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thanks.

    I explained to them that the words are arranged in alphabetical order. Now they come to the page with words that begin with tr, and I would like for them to go to vessel. What should I ask?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Oh, no, you are turning back the pages. You need to turn them forwards. (Though an American would probably say "forward".)
     

    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    I see lingobingo and I disagree. On rethinking the matter, I suppose there are contexts (particularly literary ones) where I would understand "Turn back the pages" to mean "Go backwards through the book."
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Oh dear. I thought we were agreeing! :) — i.e. that You should turn the pages doesn't specify a direction, as it needs to.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I suspect that Flo reckons that "turn back the pages" doesn't mean the same thing as turning them backwards. Perhaps she reads it as folding the corners, to mark a place.
     

    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    I was saying that "Oh, no, you are turning back the pages. You should turn the pages."" doesn't make sense, because (as you note) "turn the pages" doesn't specify a direction. Where we disagree a bit is in whether "Turn back the pages" is the way we would give a more specific direction.

    [Cross-posted with Edinburgher and edited to add: Yes, that is my problem with "turn back." It could imply creasing the pages.]
     

    stephenlearner

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I am confused. So what is your conclusion?

    Is this OK?

    Oh, no, you are turning the pages backwards. You need to turn them forwards.

    If you are on page 111, and you want to go to page 99, do you turn the pages backwards or forwards?
     
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