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It is common to ask the difference between just "へ" (-e) and "に" (-ni) but it seems to get even more complicated when you also mix in "まで" (made) and even "の方" (no-hō).

When Japanese people ask me where I'm going they always ask "どこまで" (doko made)?" rather than "どこへ" (doko e) or "どこに" (doko ni) that I expected.

I know "まで" (made) can mean "until" but when I ask the difference with "に" (ni) and "へ" (e) I'm told "へ" (e) means "to" and "に" (ni) means "in the direction of" but if this is the case then how do they differ from "の方" (no-ho) which I already learned previously meant "in the direction of"?

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Question to community: Is this question a duplicate of japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/80/… ? If so, vote to close as a duplicate. Thank you. –  Robert Cartaino Jun 1 '11 at 16:05
    
I asked this question specifically because the earlier question didn't deal with the third and forth points and a question asking just those parts would seem very strange and would inevitably have to address the first two points in any case. –  hippietrail Jun 1 '11 at 17:01
    
It's not exactly a duplicate, but probably needs some kind of merging or linking. –  repecmps Jun 2 '11 at 1:54
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@repecmps: I do link to the other question from my 6th word which causes it to show up under "Linked" in the section to the right. (And vice versa that articles will have this in its "Linked" section") –  hippietrail Jun 2 '11 at 2:47
    
oh, I didn't know about the "linked" section. (fairly new to SE) That's fine then. –  repecmps Jun 2 '11 at 3:18
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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

へ and に can both translate as "to" and are often interchangeable. The difference is that へ focuses on the process or course of going in a direction or to a place, while に focuses on the destination itself [1]. まで, being a particle that defines an upper bound, thus focuses on the distance traveled.

The function of ~の方(に/へ) depends on which particle follows. Followed by へ, it does indeed mean "in the direction of" as you previously learned. (東京の方へ行く。) Followed by に, it's harder to pin to a specific meaning, but it often means "in the general area of" or "on the side of" (the latter being when 方 is used to indicate one of multiple options rather than a simple direction of travel). (東京の方にある。)

Sources:

  1. 「彼女が待ってる新宿( )、恋する切符 5,100 円」──格助詞「に」と「へ」のイメージ── (PDF)
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It's hard to imagine a Japanese ask you specifically どこまで? A taxi driver maybe?

With まで they ask you your exact destination as would a taxi driver.

As for どこの方, it just reads "doko no kata", asking for a person's origin (country, city, where are you from)

You would use ~の方 (no hou) with ~ being a place or area, like in the sentences: Towards the post office, to the north, in the direction to the school...etc

大阪の方(ほう)へ行くんですけどsounds like something I would use.

See my other answer there as well:

When going somewhere, is there any difference between e (へ) and ni (に)?

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Actually I'm hitchhiking in Japan (for the third time) and it's very often the very first thing they say but now it's unclear to me whether they're asking my ultimate destination or my direction. I was taught "~の方" so I could ask to be taken in the direction of Osaka or somewhere even if not the whole way. –  hippietrail Jun 1 '11 at 9:49
    
yes. Exactly what I'm saying. with まで they ask you your exact destination as would a taxi driver ;) For the direction you could use 北へ行きま But that sounds a little vague for someone trying to help you go somewhere. Explain your final destination and that anywhere that way is ok. 大阪の方(ほう)へ行くんですけどsounds like something I would use. –  repecmps Jun 1 '11 at 9:55
    
In this case it seems to conflict with what Nate Glenn says in his answer, "まで emphasizes the process or journey" in his answer on japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/80/… –  hippietrail Jun 1 '11 at 9:59
    
yes, まで is a point of destination. It is easy to understand in expressions like ~から~まで (from x to y) –  repecmps Jun 1 '11 at 10:02
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funny people downvoting a correct answer :D –  repecmps Jun 1 '11 at 14:18
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