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Why can we say "Is your mother home?" but we can't say "is the boss office?" originally Why to ask if someone is at home? you can say "is your mother home?", but you can't say "is the boss office" to ask if someone is in the office.

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    For the same reason we can't "walk office" or "go office" or "hit office". But maybe in 100 years people will be saying that. Grammar describes how people use the language, it doesn't set the rules; and people don't use "office" in that way.
    – TimR
    Dec 5, 2023 at 21:18
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    This is answered by John Lawler in 'Home' in 'Ben and Jen went home.' Can an adverb be a noun at the same time?, though I'm not sure it's close enough to actually close this as a duplicate.
    – Laurel
    Dec 5, 2023 at 21:25
  • More simply, one of the definitions of "home" is that it's equivalent to "at home". There's no analogous definition for most other place names.
    – Barmar
    Dec 5, 2023 at 21:30
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    Does this answer your question? Prepositions used with "Home" Saying 'it's an adverb, not a noun, in this usage' or 'it's better analysed as an intransitive preposition' get no nearer to answering why 'home' behaves this way. This answer explains why 'He went home' has no preposition ['to' in this case], and probably 'at home' was likewise expressed by a single word in earlier days. Dec 6, 2023 at 12:54
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    @EdwinAshworth That's like saying Why does fly have a past tense when frog doesn't? The answer is because fly (the fly that has a past tense) is a verb, and frog is a noun! Home behaves like that because it's a prep and office doesn't because it's a noun! The verb go takes PP complements, not NP ones! Dec 9, 2023 at 11:10

2 Answers 2

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[1] "Is your mother home?"

[2] *"Is the boss office?"

Traditional grammar classifies the "home" in [1] as an adverb. But adverbs don't normally function as complement of "be". Modern grammar sensibly classifies it as a preposition, meaning "in/at their usual place of residence".

In [2] "office" is a noun, but it doesn't have a locational meaning like "home", and so makes no sense as complement of "is". Instead, the prepositional "in his/her office" is required.

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  • @Greybeard Frankly, the content in that linked site (EF) is absurd. For example, it's ridiculous to say that "Many English nouns and noun phrases can be used as adverbs". Anyone with even a modest knowledge of English grammar would find that laughable.
    – BillJ
    Dec 7, 2023 at 13:07
  • It is then ironic that, to the intended audience, it is perfectly understandable. On the other hand, what I assume is Pullam and Huddleston's idea that "home" is a preposition is really risible and shows a deep ignorance of the origins of "home" the adverb/adjective.
    – Greybeard
    Dec 7, 2023 at 13:11
  • @Greybeard Don't be ridiculous. As far as modern grammar is concerned, the origins are irrelevant. I explained to you in my earlier comment the grammatical reason that it can't be an adverb. Even this humble dictionary gets it right: link
    – BillJ
    Dec 7, 2023 at 13:18
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    @Greybeard Modern grammar looks at the evidence. You should try it some time. I've explained to you that adverbs don't normally function as complement of "be", so an adverbial classification makes no sense. Together with its meaning of something like "in one's usual place of residence", everything points to it being a preposition.
    – BillJ
    Dec 8, 2023 at 16:17
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Home is a

Noun I. The place where a person or animal dwells. (OED)

and

Adverb 1.e. Without verb of motion. Arrived at one's house, neighbourhood, or country after a period of absence. Also: in one's home; at home. (OED)

Office is only a noun. There is no adverb "office".

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  • I think the OED is wrong about "home". Adverbs don't normally function as complement of "be", so an adverbial classification makes no sense. Modern grammar classifies it as a prep, See my answer.
    – BillJ
    Dec 6, 2023 at 10:01
  • This answer is erratically. Dec 8, 2023 at 11:11

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