A house or a home? That is the question. How do we know when to use one or the other? In today’s Ask a Teacher, we answer this question from one of our readers on Facebook.
Hello and thanks for asking!
Both “house” and “home” are nouns that refer to living spaces.
A house is a kind of building that people live in. Such buildings are often made for just one family.
But a home is any kind of structure that people live in. It can be a house or apartment, a trailer, a boat or something else. For example, my home is a small apartment in the city.
The word “home” can also refer to a place where something is from or native to. Rainforests are home to countless bird species, for example. And, Chicago is the home of deep-dish pizza.
“Home” can even refer to a sense of emotional belonging. We can say, “Being around family feels like home.” Or, if you lived in a place and felt a strong emotional connection to it, you might say, “New York City will always be my home.”
‘Home’ as adverb
Unlike “house,” we can also use “home” as an adverb. We mostly pair it with verbs of motion – for example, walk home, get home, go home, drive home, fly home, run home and come home. But a few are unrelated to motion, such as stay home, call home and be home.
When “home” is an adverb, we almost never put words between the verb and “home.” I can say, for example, “I’m flying home from Toronto Wednesday” or “We stayed home last night. It was so cold out.”
These differences seem easy enough, right? The uncertainty between the two words probably comes when we use “house” informally. For instance, I can say, “I’m at a friend’s house” or “I’m not leaving the house tonight.”
But, we usually only use the word this way when we’re talking about being at a house, or leaving or staying in a house. In these statements, you can use “house” or “home”: “I stayed home last night” and “I stayed in the house last night.” The meaning is the same.
In other words, “home” is a little more flexible than “house.” You can stay home or stay in the house; you can also go home or come home; but you cannot go house or come house.
And that’s Ask a Teacher.
I’m Alice Bryant.
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Words in This Story
trailer – n. a vehicle that can be pulled by a truck or car and that can be parked and used as an office or home.
adverb – n. a word that describes a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or a sentence and that often shows time, manner, place or degree
informally – adv. in a way that is not suited for serious or official speech and writing