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What's the difference between "back at home" and "at home"? "back there" and "there" and ect. Why do we need "BACK"? Thanks!

  • We need more context for this - it depends a lot on the context. – John Feltz Jul 15 '18 at 12:43
  • I'm back at home right now. I'm at home right now. – Pavel Khoroshilov Jul 15 '18 at 13:03
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"Back" implies that you've gone somewhere and now have returned.

"I've been at home all day" means you haven't left the house.

"I'm back at home now" means that you went somewhere and you are now in your house again.

"My friends went to Florida last year. We're going there this year." This implies you haven't been there yet.

"My friends went to Florida last year, and my family is going back there this year." This makes explicit that you have already been there, and are going there again.

  • Quote from "Social network" - "I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try - but there's no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention - you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is BACK at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing." Again, what is "Back" doing here? – Pavel Khoroshilov Jul 16 '18 at 1:43
  • It implies that his attention is still at the office, a place he just was at recently. – Kenneth Odle Jul 16 '18 at 21:43
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    It can also be used by ex-pats to compare local practices with those of their home country. For example "Back home we'd dig those foundations a bit deeper" or "Back home we wouldn't have to get permission for that, we'd just do it". – BoldBen Sep 14 '18 at 9:47
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In all of the example uses (back at home, back there, back at the offices), back is being used in a directional sense.

From Merriam-Webster's definition of the adverb back:

2 a : to, toward, or in a place from which a person or thing came • She left home and never went back. • put the book back

It's directional, because it's making a comparison between a current location and a previous one.

I am home
I am back at home.

The former simply indicates where you are presently. (A response might be, "Okay, good to know.") The latter implies that you have returned after having gone somewhere else. (A response might be, "Oh, where did you go?")

In a comment, you asked about its use in a quote from The Social Network:

You have part of my attention - you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook . . .

Here, unlike the first use, it's not an "all or nothing" situation. His attention is divided. One piece of his attention is with the speaker, but the rest of his attention is still focused on the Facebook offices.

Rather than being used in the sense of having returned, back is indicating that part of his attention is back there, where he came from.

Although the meaning is different in both cases, and it needs to be understood in context, the word back itself, is still being used in a directional sense, and refers to a location where somebody (or something) used to be. Either, as with being home, the person is there again, or, as with The Social Network, part of a person's attention has never left.


Update: Based on comments, the reason to use back is to subtly emphasize the distinction between here and there:

What were you doing back there (instead of here).

Or, with further emphasis:

It's a long walk all the way back there (and would require a second effort to return).

  • If I'm not mistaken, he could use both. He could say "The rest of my attention is at the offices of Facebook" or "The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook " but the secon one is a little bit stronger and emphasize his words. Am I right? – Pavel Khoroshilov Jul 16 '18 at 5:08
  • Another example: What were you doing back there? What were you doing there? – Pavel Khoroshilov Jul 16 '18 at 5:12
  • @PavelKhoroshilov Yes, either can be used. The reason to use back is merely one of subtle emphasis. What were you doing back there (away from here) rather than here (where you are now). It can be emphasized even more: It's a long walk all the way back there. – Jason Bassford Jul 16 '18 at 5:21
  • I can't thank you enough:) Struggled for a few months to work this out! Thanks a lot again! – Pavel Khoroshilov Jul 16 '18 at 5:24
  • "Back" does not imply "there." "I sent you away and you left! Why did you come back here?" – Kenneth Odle Jul 16 '18 at 21:44
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"Back" home simply refers to a place, condition or feeling previously occupied, experienced or felt. "At home" implies that one is experiencing the same reaction to their place, condition or feeling that they would have if they were "back at home".

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