As you know "upstairs" and "home" are both adverb of place. So while it would be correct to say:

The kids are playing upstairs. (Here the adverb upstairs provides information about the place of the activity)

Is the following sentence correct too?

The kids are playing home.

I expect the second example to mean that children are playing at home; unless "home" is a different kind of adverb of place.

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    'I am going upstairs'/ 'I am going home' are fine. However, I'm afraid it's not so with the kids playing here. Upstairs has an implicit preposition up so it sounds OK. In case of home, you would need at before the home. – Kris Jan 11 '12 at 7:39
  • @Kris I have to disagree with you because in the example above, home is an adverb and according to Longman dictionary: Do not use a preposition (a word such as 'at' or 'to') before home when it is an adverb. – Meysam Jan 11 '12 at 7:50
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    Then the kids are staying home. No playing. :) – Kris Jan 11 '12 at 7:55
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    I think the awkwardness emerges in the fact that the listener anticipates that any potential noun following the verb play is the name of the game being played. If someone told me "The kids are playing home," I'd likely think they meant to say, "The kids are playing house" - which is quite different from what OP intends. – user13141 Jan 11 '12 at 8:19
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    @onomatomaniak: this isn't where the awkwardness comes from. You can say "I live upstairs", "I live underground", "I live downtown", "I live next door", but you can't say "I live home." This is because home has different rules than these other adverbs of place. You can't say "I live north" or "I live south", either, you have to say "I live up north", "I live down south", "I live at home". – Peter Shor Jan 12 '12 at 2:14

According to NOAD, the definition of home in this context is given thus:

home (adv)

to or at the place where one lives

Technically, it is not ungrammatical to say The children are playing home to mean The children are playing at home, since at is implicit in the definition of the adverb home. However, this form is certainly not colloquial, and I daresay no native speaker would use this in any context, formal or informal.

Here are some examples in which it is all right to drop at (informal contexts):

  • He's staying home today.
  • When is she usually home?
  • I missed your class because I was home sick yesterday.

In the following examples, it would be incorrect to include a preposition:

  • When is mom getting home?
  • I want to go home!
  • Son, when are you coming home?
  • Are you driving home today? I need a ride.

You may notice that home is generally used alone as an adverb of place (without at, from, etc) with movement verbs, e.g. come, go, leave, stay, be, drive, dash, move, etc. Verbs of other species usually require at, e.g. dance, play, eat, relax, and whatever else one does at home!

To my ear eat home sounds all right, and I may have heard or used it myself. This may be one of a few exceptions, but it is certainly not formal. If eat home is ever used, my hunch is that eat in (which means eat at home) is falling out of favor, or, as native speakers tend to do, at is dropped for convenience and it sounds good!

  • We're eating home today. (Technically, it is eat in if at is not used)

Another observation to note is in the case of non-movement verbs, the preposition may be dropped (colloquially) when the action described can be performed at home as opposed to somewhere else. Examples are few and far between, though.

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    It might be archaic, but where you suggest that prepositions are not allowed, I think you could use to in all of them. E.g. "When is mum getting to home?", "I want to go to home!". See Where's that to – Matt E. Эллен Jan 11 '12 at 9:23
  • @Matt: Interesting... – Jimi Oke Jan 12 '12 at 2:14

I would say

The kids are home, playing.

Here, home is an adjective not an adverb; it qualifies the kids. The alternative, of course is

The kids are playing at home.

This means the same, but emphasises "at home" a little more than the first sentence does.

  • I understand that home can be an adjective as in these examples. I just do not get why it is not an adverb in your first sentence. Are you suggesting that "The kids are home" is not equivalent to "The kids are at home"? – Meysam Oct 15 '12 at 8:40
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    @Meysam, because saying "the kids are home" is the same (from a structural/grammatical point of view) as saying "the kids are naughty". Both "home" and "naughty" are adjectives qualifying "the kids". Note that "home" as an adjective can only be used predicatively - you can't say "the home kids are naughty" (except in specialist contexts such as a children's football game, to distinguish them from the "away kids"). – user16269 Oct 15 '12 at 18:28

I wonder when it was that someone first classified these uses of 'home' as special adverb of place? It strikes me someone, not so long ago, scratching their heads over this particular usage said under their breath 'how can I explain this'? Ah, if I call it an adverb, that will give me an out! Let's do that then. What I mean then, is that calling it an adverb is rather begging the question, but if it fits the bill leave it at that. I am glad that in today's discussion with a Chinese student ('No, we don't say to home') we arrived at an understanding.


As you have mentioned in your question "The kids are playing upstairs is correct". Where as the second has to be "The kids are playing at home" . This is similar to answering someone's question- "Where are you"? if you are in your house then, you would say "I am at home".

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    You can answer "I am home" to that question. There is no need for at. – Matt E. Эллен Jan 11 '12 at 9:21
  • If you are notifying someone in the house that you have arrived home then you say "I am home" and suppose you are on call with someone and that person asks you "where are you?" then you say "am at home" right? – Apoorva Jan 11 '12 at 10:02
  • It is grammatical to answer "Where are you?" with "Home", "At home", "I'm at home", "I'm home", etc., – Matt E. Эллен Jan 11 '12 at 10:18
  • That is what i have mentioned in my answer. So am i right or wrong? – Apoorva Jan 11 '12 at 10:31
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    @Apoorva: "I am home" and "I am at home" are both valid responses to "Where are you?". If there's any difference in nuance, it's that omitting "at" focusses more on the fact that you have by now arrived home (having been out at some point in the recent past),rather than a simple statement of your current location (where you may have been for a very long time). – FumbleFingers Jan 11 '12 at 15:11

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