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The English sentence "I went east to Japan." is quite simple - a direction and a destination together in a sentence. But it seems this is rather tricky to translate into Japanese.

I asked this Hinative question about how best to translate the sentence, and the answers are a bit contradictory. My question is, in a nutshell: I want to know if 「私は東へ、日本に行った。」 is grammatically correct or not.

In the main answerer's second comment, they say that 「私は東へ、日本に行った。」 would be grammatically correct, because it's considered to be a contraction of two sentences: 「私は東へ向かった。日本に行った。」.

However, that strikes me as odd. Isn't that essentially how the directional へ particle works all the time? If 「私は東へ、日本に行った。」 is grammatically valid, then why wouldn't it be valid to say that you can include both "direction+へ" and "destination+に" in sentences all the time?

Hoping to get a second opinion from the grammar experts in this group. Thanks in advance!

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  • The English sentence works only because the word "east" functions as an adverb. Doesn't "I went to the east to Japan" sound weird?
    – aguijonazo
    Feb 13, 2023 at 16:58
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    Personally (native speaker of English) I think your base sentence in English sounds at least a bit unnatural, particular without a very strong context in which it would make sense. To me (non-native) it sounds more natural to put 東に向かって in the sentence; I'm not convinced that the direct translation is any more unnatural than the English. Feb 13, 2023 at 17:31
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    I think that thinking of へ as meaning "direction" is actually your fundamental problem. With 行く, for example, it doesn't really mean "direction" as much as more "general destination". For example, 東へ行った actually says "(I) went to somewhere which was east (of my starting point)" or "(I) went in a direction which would cause me to end up in the east". So using both together isn't combining a direction and a destination. It's actually still combining two different destinations in the same sentence.
    – Foogod
    Feb 13, 2023 at 17:44

2 Answers 2

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私は東へ日本に行った sounds very weird to my native ears. place/direction + へ and place/direction + に occupy the same argument ("slot") of 行く, so they are mutually exclusive. (Of course, something like 5時に or 桜を見に can be used together with another へ/に for destination.)

To fix this, you need to paraphrase the sentence like so:

  • 日本に行くため東に向かった
  • 日本を目指して東へ出発した
  • ここから東にある日本へ行った
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As you said, it's a contraction of two sentences, so I don't see why it wouldn't be valid because they are for different verbs.

Also I'm not a native, but I feel "東へ向かって、日本に行った。" would be more natural than "東へ、日本に行った。"

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  • There is only one verb (行った) in the sentence, so what do you mean by "for different verbs"?
    – naruto
    Feb 13, 2023 at 13:01
  • Even 東へ向かって、日本に行った sounds a little weird. Maybe 東へ東へと進み日本にたどり着いた or someting like that would make it work. How about 東へ出発し、日本に向かった
    – Uso Dayo
    Feb 13, 2023 at 13:38
  • naruto: I believe 「東へ」on it's is not a complete sentence. A verb or noun has been omitted. The omitted verb suggested by the OP is 「向かう」
    – Kimbi
    Feb 14, 2023 at 2:22
  • Uso Dayo: How about 「日本に向かって、東に行った」? I believe this could also be a correct interpretation of the English.
    – Kimbi
    Feb 14, 2023 at 2:27

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