Consider this question:

Where are they (things or people)?

Would the following answer be with (at), without it or either one?

I left them (at) home

I have done a quick Google search and found quotes for both cases, with and without:

This Widow's 4 Kids Were Taken After She Left Them Home Alone.

Leaving Your Child Home Alone - KidsHealth

Gerry said, "I left them at home." Gerry sat down and turned on the TV set just as Mark would have done.

I read about "home" being an adverb but also know "stay at home moms" for example. So you see I need definite answers.

4 Answers 4


If the choice is between

I left them at home


I left them home

I would always choose at home.

at home, along with such other phrases as at work and at school, are fixed and extremely common. So common that I would not depart from them. I would also never say I left them work or ...school.

Yes, home can be an adverb, but I would use this mainly to answer the question

Where are you going?

(I'm going) home.

As far as home alone, this expression is fine, in either

He left the kids at home alone.

He left the kids home alone.

But my feeling is that the use of the latter phrase remains popular in some respects because of the popular movie of the same name: Home Alone, and its sequels.

  • 3
    The phrase was popular long before the movie existed.
    – Octopus
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 17:23
  • 1
    @Octopus Exactly: remains popular is what I wrote. And has now become an almost go-to phrase, in all sorts of contexts, because of the movie.
    – user6951
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 17:35

Both usages are acceptable.

This is an easy one to get stuck on. The trick here is that home is both an idea and a location.

Consider the word alone.

You would say

Leave me alone.

but not

Leave me at alone.

because alone is an idea and not a location.

Conversely, my house is a location and not an idea.

So, you could say

I forgot them at my house.

but not

I forgot them my house.

Thus, when you say

I left them home.

You are referring to the idea of home; whereas,

I left them at home.

refers to the location.

Note that while these are slightly different usages of the word, they are commonly understood to mean the same thing.


To make things easier, home as a noun means

the place where one lives

and as an adverb it means

at the place where one lives

So, you can leave something at home (noun), or you can leave something home (adverb).

  • 7
    I disagree with this answer. The cases in the question only work because it is "home alone". "I left them home" does not ring grammatical with me.
    – Octopus
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 17:23
  • 5
    @Octopus Personally, I think it's a matter of what is being left home. I would never say "I left my keys home", but I would say "I left my family home." Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 18:50
  • 9
    "I left my family home" is not a great example because family can be an adjective describing home as a noun similar to "childhood home". Home as an adverb is not "at home" the way I understand it; it is "to or toward home" as in "I went home". I don't know that I've ever heard a native speaker (AmE) say "I left it home". I've always heard it "I left it at home." It is however common to say something like "The school nurse sent her home."
    – ColleenV
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 19:43
  • 1
    It should be noted, though, as Octopus points out, that "home alone" is a collocation, so "left them home alone" does sound significantly less awkward than "left them home", even if it is technically grammatical to say that.
    – neminem
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 19:44
  • 2
    Google isn't exactly an authoritative dictionary. Cambridge defines it as to or towards where you live. dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/american-english/…
    – ColleenV
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 20:02

They are both common but at home is more consistent with similar expressions such as at work.

I can't help but think of the German heimgehen and nach Hause gehen (= go home in both cases). The second formula is like in latin languages, where there is no such thing as home, there's just "the house", and you "go to the house" if you're going home (in French it would be "à la", in other languages it's often just "a/à" without the article), while the first makes sense only in German and English (go home/heimgehen). Marginal note: if you left something at home, it's zu Hause.

I'm a romance native speaker and I'm thus used to having particles such as at everywhere, while this is not so in germanic languages, except for English which is heavily influenced by French and so is a bit of a middle ground.

Considering all of this, I'm pretty sure that the popularity of I left the kids home is definitely not due to a movie but it's due to some ancient germanic grammar, because the same "feature" is present in both German and English. Except that in German heim is always used without the equivalent of "at" so there's no ambiguity, you either say "home" without the "at" or you say "house".

All in all, I would be pretty sure that both are correct and it's not like either one of them is due to a modern fad.


The examples without prepositions are headlinese. Writers often take liberty omitting the prepositions.

But then, to answer your question...

Both are okay. Nevertheless, I'd vote for at home.

The reason is home when serves as an adverb talks more about the direction. And this, as a special adverb, does not take any preposition. Compare:

I am going/arriving/leaving home - no preposition

But then, once you reach home, you are at home.

Said that, if you want to specify the location, the preposition makes better sense.

I left key/people at home

Will you be at the office tonight at 9 pm? ~ No. I will be at home that time. Call me on my residence number.

However, in AmE, at is still omitted in this case.

  • (AmE perspective): No one I know says at office, but at work. Also, as an AmE speaker I'd say I'll be at home at that time and would rarely omit the first at, never the second. Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 23:04
  • "at the office" is fine though.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 7:59

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