by Liz Walter
Spending several weeks under (partial) lockdown has made me think more deeply about the concept of ‘home’. It’s a word that has a huge amount of implied meaning over and above its main literal meaning of ‘the place where you live’. It is also a very common word that can cause problems for learners because it acts in odd ways with regard to the use of prepositions.
Come on, Joe – it’s time to go home now.
Other verbs of movement have the same rule – we don’t use the preposition to between them and home:
We pleaded with her to come home.
We travelled (UK)/traveled (US) home by train.
When we talk about being in our homes or about things in our homes, we use the preposition at:
I was at home with my family that evening. (Americans sometimes omit ‘at’ in this context after verbs like stay or be.)
He has several more guitars at home.
The word ‘home’ is often used in phrases connected with feeling comfortable and belonging somewhere. For example, if we say to a guest, ‘Make yourself at home’, we mean that they should relax and treat your home as if it were their own. Similarly, if you feel at home in a place, you feel that it is the right place for you to be. This sense is probably best summed up in the phrase Home is where the heart is, meaning that your home is the place you love most, even if you don’t live there at the moment.
When we move away from our parents’ house, we say that we are leaving home. When adults talk about going home, for example for a national holiday, they often mean that they are going to their childhood home, where their parents still live, rather than to their own current homes. Similarly, if we say that an adult still lives at home, we mean that they live in their childhood home with their parents.
We also use the word ‘home’ to talk about a country or area where we live, rather than a building:
We consider France our home now.
Eating out is much more expensive at home.
However, as a countable noun, ‘home’ can be used without any extra connotation, simply to mean a building where someone lives:
The government has promised to build thousands of new homes in the area.
She has homes in several cities.
‘Home’ has several more, less common, uses but these are the most common ones. I hope you find the explanations useful.