The following problem is from a mock exam question from HSK5级应试指南; we're meant to arrange the sentence fragments into a grammatical sentence:


I didn't get this answer correct (the lack of a 在 confused me). The given answer is:


Judging from Google, this seems to be a correct grammar structure, but I haven't encountered before: there appears to be a gap in my knowledge. It appears in this context, 落 has this meaning and pronunciation:

CC-CEDICT: 落 (là​): to leave out / to be missing / to leave behind or forget to bring / to lag or fall behind

Question: How can I make sense of 落家里 within 张东把钥匙落家里了?

I'd ordinarily expect something like 张东把钥匙忘在家里了. I'm guessing 落家里 (without a 在) is just an irregular case, and I can't generalize this to other verbs and/or objects.

  • Note this is a local dialect, I believe is somewhere in northeastern (東北) China. You are correct, in standard speaking, 在 should be added.
    – r13
    Jul 3, 2021 at 0:21
  • 张东 dropped / forgot the key at his home.
    – Zhang
    Jul 3, 2021 at 12:06
  • 1
    @r13 Due to Mandarin is based on Northern dialect, some dialect usages are still retained in standard Chinese. I live in eastern China, but the people here also use this kind of sentence.
    – T-Pioneer
    Jul 10, 2021 at 3:15
  • @T-Pioneer Could be, due to the closeness in the geography of your province to the north-eastern provinces. Which province do you live in? I believe (not necessarily true though), Mandarin was modified from the official language (官話) in Bejing used since Qing Dynasty (清朝), so generally speaking, the Northern dialect and Mandarin do bear the similarities. However, 落家里 is not the correct way, to say something forgotten and left at home, per standard Mandarin (普通話) but a local custom (地方慣用語).
    – r13
    Jul 10, 2021 at 4:06
  • @r13 I live in Yangzhou, Jiangsu. You are right that the dialect of my hometown is a kind of 官话. Yangzhou dialect is a kind of 江淮官话. It is obviously correct to add a preposition. But is it correct to remove the preposition in standard spoken Mandarin? I am not very sure. If it is only a local custom, someone who speaks another dialect or knows Mandarin very well will help us. If it is widely used in the whole country, it shall not be a local custom. But because every dialect is now influenced by Mandarin(based on Northern dialect), it may mistake as a local custom can turn into standard usage.
    – T-Pioneer
    Jul 10, 2021 at 4:32

4 Answers 4


I was born in Harbin, 落家里了 is a typical northeastern saying.i can't recall anyone would say 落在家里了,落 emphasizes on the meaning of forget,while if you add 在 after a verb, you might have some intention to do that action. e.g.我把伞留(在)家里了,我把钱放(在)银行了。you know what you are doing, you have an intention. and 在 can be omitted when followed by a locality noun.


Some verbs (like "落") do not need any preposition after them if there is a location phrase(地点短语), especially in spoken Chinese.

special verb家里location phrase

Some other verbs like "落": 扔, 放, 丢, 送.

If you add a preposition, the sentence is still right.

Why we often delete the preposition? To make the sentence shorter and more casual. It is spoken Chinese. We hardly delete the preposition when we write a formal file.

  • 1
    That's also what I was about to say. A similar usage in English is like "go home" vs. "go to home". "to" is not needed.
    – ALife
    Oct 20, 2021 at 0:32

It might be confused with the English usage of home, such as go home. We don't use to because of the special treatment of home, not for the same reason as in Chinese.

Two Types of Locative Phrases

In Chinese, there are two types of locative phrases, in this case 家里 (unmarked noun phrases) and 在家里 (coverb-object), which are both regular forms and frequently used. The current mainstream linguistic treatment is to recognize their equal status as locative phrases, so it's inaccurate to understand the first form as the ellipsis of the coverb 在. The unmarked form looks like an object, but it's indeed a locative. (In fact the locative is only one of the many roles an unmarked noun phase can act.)


  1. In some cases both forms are interchangeable, like in your example. Likewise, you can also say 张东把钥匙放桌上了 or 张东把钥匙放在桌上了. These are usually at postverbal positions.

  2. At the sentence initial position, it's more natural to use the unmarked form. For example, 桌上有钥匙 is much better than 在桌上有钥匙.

  3. At the preverbal position, however, the coverb form should be used. For example, 我在家里吃饭 (I'm eating at home). We cannot say 我家里吃饭.

For different variants (dialects) of Chinese the usage could be slightly different. However, The general framework is the same since the two types of locative phrases are already equally used in Classical Chinese.

  • Looks like a very nice explanation!
    – ALife
    Feb 12, 2022 at 15:04

From these 2, 2. is preferable,according to friends (他们说,“我也不知道为什么。”):

  1. 我把钥匙落在家里了。
  2. 我把钥匙落家里了。

A meaning of 落:留下。

  • If you type "我把钥匙落家里了" in Google Translate, you get "I left the key at home" But if you type "I left the key at home", you get "我把钥匙留在家里了" Go figure. Aug 9, 2021 at 7:16

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