One of our subscribers recently wrote in to ask us for help. Her students had asked her why we say go home and not go to home, and she wasn’t sure what to tell them. Various students of mine have also asked me this question over the years. What should we tell our students for cases like this?
Go + to + article + noun
The typical pattern with the verb go includes the preposition of direction (to), an article, and noun. We don’t use an article for proper nouns.
- go to the store
- go to a movie
- go to my house
- go to Paris
Go + noun
In the expression go home, the preposition and article are omitted. Go home is a verb + adverb pattern. In this expression, home functions as an adverb that gives the location or direction of a verb. It might seem strange to students to consider home as an adverb since it usually acts as a common noun, but point out that most dictionaries include an adverb entry for home, and remind them of similar, more common adverbs with go, such as go here, go there, go anywhere, and go everywhere.
Home can act as an adverb with certain verbs, such as go, stay, drive, fly, return, arrive, come, leave, and move + home. But remind students that home can’t be an adverb with every verb; for example, we can’t say paint home, buy home, sell home, decorate home, etc.
We can also think of go home as a reduced way of saying go to my home, and it’s by far the more accepted expression. Consider go to my house, which is not as common, and therefore we can’t drop the preposition or article (in this case, the possessive adjective my). Note that house would also never function as an adverb.
Luckily for students, the list of reduced phrases with go + adverb is fairly short. Here are the Fab Four (to borrow the Beatles’ moniker) that your students should memorize:
- go home
- go downtown
- go here
- go there
Does this happen with any other English expressions?
Yes, it does! Other verbs, such as stay, drive, fly, return, arrive, come, leave, and move can follow this pattern. For practice with stay home in context, try our Staycations lesson.
- stay home
- stay downtown
- stay here
- stay there
For another common reduction example that doesn’t involve an adverb, think about watch TV. It’s so common that, over time, we’ve dropped the article the. Radio, on the other hand, isn’t as common, so we must keep the preposition and article.
- watch TV
- listen to the radio
Reductions like this also happen a lot with of. Consider the following expressions:
- all my friends (all of my friends)
- look out the window (look out of the window)
Can you think of any other cases of reductions in English? I invite everyone to add to the list. Please leave a comment below if you can think of another instance where the preposition and/or article get dropped.
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