Stay home or stay at home – which is correct and why?

Stay home.

Stay at home.

When “home” functions as an adverb, it can modify the verb “stay”. There are other examples, such as “go home”,but there is no expression:

Go to home.

So I wonder which one is correct?

People used to think that prepositions had to come before a noun. However, in 1924 a writer called Otto Jespersen realised that prepositions are always prepositions, even if we don’t use them with a noun. He also realised that some prepositions never come before nouns.

It took a long time for people to change their thinking. Now, if you look in a modern grammar such as:

  • The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language Huddleston & Pullum, 2002
  • Oxford Modern English Grammar, Aarts, 2011

… you will see that prepositions are a class of words like nouns, verbs and adjectives. It doesn’t matter what kind of words we find them with.

Home in English, is a preposition. There is another word home which is a noun. We can use prepositions and preposition phrases as the complement of the verb BE:

  • She is in
  • She is in the bath
  • She is out
  • She is inside
  • She is inside the shop
  • She is away
  • She is around
  • She is about
  • She is abroad
  • She is home

Prepositions can take other preposition phrases as a complement. In other words we often use two prepositions together:

  • She is out of touch
  • She is away from her desk
  • She is round about somewhere
  • She is at home

The Original Posters examples

The verb STAY usually takes a locative complement. Usually this complement is a preposition phrase. The word at and home are both prepositions. The sentences:

  • Stay home
  • Stay at home

… are both grammatical.

The preposition to is unusual because we usually need to use it with a noun. So we see:

  • Go to work
  • Go to the shop
  • Go to a concert

The word to can’t usually come before another preposition:

  • *Go to inside
  • *Go to away
  • *Go to out
  • *Go to abroad
  • *Go to home
  • *Go to at home

Notice, though that if we use the noun home instead of the preposition home, then we can use the preposition to

  • Go to my home
  • Go to different homes in the area
  • Go to homes before you buy them
  • I went to an old peoples home.

Hope this is helpful!

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