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"?


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。)


  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)
  • I have found 2 sentences relating to the the word 「~の方へ」in an instruction manual explaining about setting Nintendo Network ID in video game consoles; Nintendo 3DS and WiiU. It says 「ほかの3DSシリーズ本体をお持ちの方へ」and 「WiiUをお持ちの方へ」. Could I translate both sentences as "[Setting the ID] in a way you have console 3DS / WiiU"?
    – George
    Aug 4 '16 at 3:04

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)?

  • 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. 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/… 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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