This verb is a fairly straightforward translation of “to return”. Its close cousin is volver and, in most contexts, it means pretty much the same thing. It has a few idiosyncrasies, however, which are worth pointing out.
In Latin American Spanish, regresar can be transitive or intransitive. In other words, it can mean simply “to return” or “to return something to somewhere”. Here are a few examples:
- “Ella regresa a España mañana” = She is returning to Spain tomorrow
- “Ella le regresó el bebé a su mamá” = She returned the baby to its mother
- “Le regresó la llamada” = He returned the call
In Spain, however, regresar is never used in a transitive way, meaning that the second and third examples would be, by Castillian standards, incorrect. Spaniards would express these sentences as “Ella le devolvió el bebé a su mamá” and “Le devolvió la llamada”.
Spaniards, in fact, rarely use the verb regresar for anything and much prefer its counterpart volver. Both verbs are fairly common in Latin American Spanish, but only regresar can be used in the sense of “returning something”. If you’re uncertain, just use the more universal devolver for this purpose and you will be understood.
Incidentally, regresar is sometimes used to mean “to rewind”, although the word rebobinar is considered more correct. At least in Mexico, however, it seems that regresar el video is preferred in colloquial speech. This may become a moot point as “rewinding videos” becomes a thing of the past.