Home and house are probably among the first words you learned when you started studying English. They are important precisely because our homes and houses are important to all of us.
One question I sometimes hear during my English conversation classes is exactly this one: What’s the difference between a home and a house? It is true that it can be confusing, especially if there is no difference in your own language.
A house is a type of building. Other types of buildings can be blocks of flats, hospitals, churches, barns, schools etc. A house is a structure where a person or a family can live. It is permanent: even if nobody lives in it, it is still called a house, just as a school is called a school even when it is empty when pupils are on holiday.
The word home refers to the place that gives you a sense of belonging, where you live or used to live. It can be a house, but it can also be an apartment, a caravan, a castle, a farm, or even a boat. It can also be a city, a region or a country. It does not refer to any specific structure or to the building itself, but to the place you feel is yours, where you feel safe and comfortable, including the people and activities that are part of it.
In other words, we can say a home is an abstract concept, connected to emotions whereas a house refers to a concrete, material building.
Look at the following examples:
- “There’s a beautiful house across the street.” → here, house is used to refer the type of building across the street is a house, not a block of flats.
- “I enjoy getting back home after a long day.” → here, home is used to refer to the place where I can live with my family, relax, cook, sleep.
You probably have already heard or seen this phrase:
Home sweet home
It expresses the pleasure of being back in your own place, often used after being away.
Here are a two more phrases with home:
- Homesick: a feeling of sadness when you are away from home
- Make yourself at home: an invitation to make yourself comfortable
And here are two expressions with house:
- A house of cards: a fragile and precarious plan or situation that can easily fall apart
- On the house: something given free of charge by a business, for example a drink in a bar.
There you are! You now know the difference between a house and a home. Congratulations! 🙂