I'm comfortable using "outside" as a preposition. but the other day I got a chance to know the use of "outside" as an adverb. And I get "outside" mixed up with "outdoors". And my personal opinion is that the meanings of them are the same.

  1. I spend most of my time outside.

  2. I spend most of my time outdoors.

It implies that I'm under the sky not roof, right?


Close, but not quite. 'Outside' is relative to a specified location - I can be outside your room, but not outdoors, because I am standing in the hallway.

Outdoors is outside relative to a type of location - a building. So if I am outdoors, that means I am outside of any building, in the open, under the sky.

Of course, then people start bringing pergolas and verandas into the equation, and things get messy.

So to answer your question, 'outdoors' always means under the sky, whereas 'outside', without some point or context to reference what you are outside of, doesn't.

That said, as @Catija was kind enough to highlight, in the case of the specific example sentence, most people would take 'outside' to mean 'outdoors', unless you specified somewhere else.

  • There is also, at least in American English, the definitive "the outdoors" (sometimes capitalized as "the Outdoors"). That refers specifically to being outdoors in an undeveloped wilderness setting, typically a forest. – TBridges42 Aug 3 '15 at 20:07
  • Damien, you're perfectly correct that "outside" can be used to refer to a position that is still indoors. I would argue, however, that in the case of the specific example sentence, both sentences mean the same thing and the general reading of "I spend most of my time outside" would be "under the sky" unless some other position information were given such as "I spend most of my time outside this room". – Catija Aug 6 '15 at 6:36
  • @Catija That's a fair point. I've modified my answer accordingly. – Damien H Aug 6 '15 at 6:50

Correct. "Outdoors" is a bit more formal sounding (especially in speech), but in this context they do mean the exact same thing.

Of course, "outside" is frequently used in relation to rooms:

"You have a visitor outside," her secretary announced.

"Outdoors" is always perfectly clear.

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