Me and the particle don't get along. It's not that we don't like each other, it's that we don't get each other. I'm in a pretty committed relationship with .

I mean, I think I understand what aspires to do. is focused on the process of going somewhere, and is focused on the destination. But in practical terms, the difference strikes me as too subtle to really matter. So subtle that I don't know if I've ever uttered when speaking Japanese.

It seems to be that 「あの場所に行っている」 and 「あの場所へ行っている」 both mean "[I'm] going to that place". However in one case I'm emphasizing the 場所 and in the other I'm emphasizing that I'm 行っている. Hmmm...

Whenever I'm speaking, I never invite to come along, because I've never felt the need to make that distinction.

I've never thought, "does the person I'm talking to understand that I'm going to that place, not just there's a place that I'm going to?" Absolutely every time I want to convey an action that involves direction, I find that always comes through for me.

So I wonder, is there any situation where absolutely cannot replace ? Where the meaning would significantly change, or that it would become ungrammatical?

Heck, do we even really need ?

Or have I misunderstood its purpose completely?

(Please make answers readable by all, with no overly technical linguistic terms. Thanks!)

  • 1
    +1 for a great opening line: [[ Me and the particle へ don't get along. It's not that we don't like each other, it's that we don't get each other. I'm in a pretty committed relationship with に. ]]
    – istrasci
    Commented Jul 24, 2011 at 17:56
  • 1
    Also, 「あの場所に行っている」 would usually mean "Person X (someone other than yourself) is at that place", or more literally 「X "is gone" to that place」. While still correct, depicting the state "is currently going" might be better as 行きつつある or 行く途中.
    – istrasci
    Commented Jul 24, 2011 at 18:01
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    I agree with @istrasci 行っている sounds like you're already there. On top of istrasci's alternatives, an often heard alternative is ~に向かっている.
    – dainichi
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 1:58
  • @dainichi: That issue was resolved and discussed in depth in this question: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/3262/…
    – Questioner
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 2:05

2 Answers 2


Using in front of to modify a noun is ungrammatical.

○ あの場所への行き方
× あの場所にの行き方
'the way to go to that place'

If you are not modifying a noun, you can use either.

○ あの場所へ行く方法
○ あの場所に行く方法

To answer rintaun's question below, when the noun is more of a recipient rather than just a destination, replacing with will sound strange.

△ あなたへプレゼントをあげる
○ あなたにプレゼントをあげる

However, as with above, if the usage of is prohibited for some reason, then will take over that usage, and becomes completely fine.

○ あなたへのプレゼント
× あなたにのプレゼント

△ あなたへあげるプレゼント [Relative clause]
○ あなたにあげるプレゼント [Relative clause]

  • Is there anywhere that に is used for direction that can't be replaced by へ? (So obviously not について etc.)
    – rintaun
    Commented Jul 24, 2011 at 17:18

Just one example case where へ can not be replaced by に:

When addressing a note to someone, you could say 田中へ but I don't think you could write 田中に with the same meaning.

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    this could be less about the usage of へ in a grammatical structure and be more of a social norm when writing letters. Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 3:09
  • +1 for technically finding a situation where へ can not be replaced by に, but I think you already knew that it wasn't quite in the spirit of the question.
    – Questioner
    Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 3:40

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