This line from Monk: Mr. Monk Makes a Friend (2007) motivates this question. Adrian Monk says this just outside his home to a friend of his.

Come on, I live right upstairs.

Just from this, I couldn't tell if he lived on the first floor or just near the ground floor.

The Question

While making neighbours' acquaintances, people often use "right", as in "I live right next door / right across the street / right upstairs," etc.

"Right next door" implies adjacency, sometimes immediate but, broadly, allowing some footwork:

Next door (broadly): in or at an adjacent place

"Right across the street" is quite ambiguous:

You can also use ["right across the street"] to talk about somewhere that's very close by, but not literally right across the street.¹

However, I find "right upstairs" less ambiguous. Floors being countable, when someone says "I live right upstairs," does it mean they live on the floor directly above the current? Otherwise, they would say "I live [number] floors above," right?

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    The use of "right" here does imply closeness, and in particular the idea that it doesn't take long to get from their place to yours, but it does not necessarily imply adjacency. So I would not assume that "right upstairs" is only one floor away, especially in a large multi-story building. – Canadian Yankee Dec 25 '20 at 17:58
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    I agree with @CanadianYankee, right just has a sense of immediate (in space or time) but it doesn't necessarily mean anything specific. It's usually used to give a sense of closeness or convenience, and if someone said "I live right upstairs" I feel like they would be implying a friendly tone, diminishing their distance and privacy, undermining their separation and personal space to emphasise that they're nearby. Although "right above you" would imply they're directly above you, that's very specific about place. – cactustictacs Dec 26 '20 at 14:44
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    To avoid any ambiguity you could say "I live on the next floor (above (you))" – fev Feb 1 at 14:41

No, “right upstairs” does not mean they definitely live on the closest floor above you. In these contexts, “right” means somewhere between “very close” and “not far away”. It is used when someone wants to emphasize that a location, thing, or person is nearby.

Maybe it is surprising that a location is close:

Wow, I can’t believe I met someone in London that grew up right down the street from me in Tokyo.

Maybe it is easy or quick to get a thing:

If you wait for me to grab my coat, I’ll walk with you. It will only take a minute—my coat is right upstairs.

Or maybe someone is very close by:

Be careful not to slam the door. My roommate works the night shift and is sleeping right next to the guest room.


Honestly, it all boils down to how the conversation goes: it is difficult to understand right away from the first sentence.

However, usually, when someone says "I live right upstairs", there is a follow-up question about where exactly.

Other times, the person can says

I literally live right upstairs.

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