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I have come across three main ways to indicate the idea of "where" in Japanese:

どこ

どこに

どちら

Can anyone shed light on when one is used or preferred over another? Or with what combination of word types? Also any additional information about alternatives to those that I have listed is greatly appreciated.

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    Note that どこに is not a separate word, but rather the interrogative word どこ + locative particle に. – Eiríkr Útlendi Aug 23 '18 at 23:13
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どちら can be the politer version of どこ.
The に in どこに is a locative/directional particle, as pointed out by @Eiríkr in the comment. (So どちらに, どちらへ can be the politer ways of saying どこに, どこへ, "in/to where, in/to which place", eg 「どこに行くの?」(casual) 「どちらへお出かけですか。」(polite)).

Can anyone shed light on when one is used or preferred over another? Or with what combination of word types?

どこ is used more in casual conversation, and どちら, in politer conversation. So どこ is used more with casual type of words and どちら, with politer type of words, eg:
どこに持っていけばいい?」(casual) 「どちらにお持ちしましょう?」(polite)
「出身はどこ?」(casual) 「ご出身はどちらですか。」(polite)

Also any additional information about alternatives to those that I have listed is greatly appreciated.

We also have いずこ to mean "where", but it sounds old-fashioned and stiff.


As a side note...

どこ basically means "where" "which place" "which part"...
(It can also mean "which team/organization" "what degree/extent" etc., eg 「どこが優勝したんですか。」「どこまで厚かましいんだ。」)

... whereas どちら can be the politer version of:

  • どこ -- where, which place
    eg「どこに住んでるの?」(casual)「お住まいはどちらですか。」(polite)
  • どっち -- which one (of two) / which direction
    eg「肉か魚、どっちがいい?」(casual)「お肉かお魚、どちらがよろしいですか。」(polite)
    「恵方巻、どっち向いて食べたらいい?」(casual)「恵方巻はどちらを向いて食べればいいですか。」(polite)
  • どれ -- which one (of three or more)
    eg「前菜は三種、ABCとあるけどどれにする?」(casual)「前菜は三種、ABCとございますが、どちらになさいますか。」(polite)
  • だれ -- who
    eg「だれ?」(casual)「どちら様ですか。」(polite)

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