Adverbs of Place

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Over at the Culips Facebook page, we’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about why in English we don’t use the preposition to with words like home, downtown, and outside. (You can check out the Culips Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CulipsPodcast.)

So why do we say “I’m going to school” but not “I’m going to home”? Instead, we say “I’m going home,” with no preposition.

As many English teachers (and probably all English students!) will tell you, English can sometimes be a weird language, and there are some things about it that you just have to get used to by listening and reading as much as you can until things start to sound natural to you.

But that explanation isn’t very helpful when you just want to know WHY something is the way it is. So here’s my attempt at explaining why we don’t use the preposition to with certain words, like home, inside, and away.

When we say, “I went home,” the word home isn’t being used as a noun. It’s not a specific, physical place the way that school is. It’s more of an abstract, general idea. So in this case, the word home is actually an adverb (“an adverb of place” is the technical term), which doesn’t require a preposition. There are other adverbs of place like this too, and we don’t use a preposition with any of these words either.

Some examples are:
• inside/outside – It’s too cold out here. Let’s go inside.
• downstairs/upstairs – Can you please go downstairs and turn the TV off?
• downtown/uptown – Yesterday we went downtown to do some shopping.
• here/there – How was your vacation in Hawaii? I really want to go there someday!
• somewhere/anywhere – I don’t feel like going anywhere today. Let’s stay home.
• abroad – Last year I went abroad to study English.
• away – Go away. I don’t want to talk to you right now.
• back – I forgot my hat at the restaurant, but I went back and luckily it was still there.

But unlike with the words listed above, you can also use the word home as a specific place, but then you have to add the preposition to, and you also have to specify whose home it is. For example, if your friend came over for dinner, you could say, “She came to my home last weekend.” If you only said “She came home last weekend,” it would sound like you both share the same home. For example, you could say, “My wife was visiting her parents out of town, but she came home last weekend.”

We can think about this abstract/general concept to explain why we sometimes do and sometimes don’t use a preposition with home, but the truth is, it can be confusing. This is definitely one of those things that you just get better at the more you use and hear the language, but maybe this little explanation will help you to remember until then!

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