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The Difference Between the Particles “に” and “へ”


The Difference Between the Particles “に” and “へ”

Welcome back to our “Video & Article” series with tutor Miki. In this article and video Miki teaches you the difference between the particles “に” and “へ” Japanese. Did you know that the phrases “東京(とうきょう)()きます” and “東京(とうきょう)()きます” each carry a slightly different meaning? Learn why in this lesson.

Table of Contents

[The basics]

[The difference between に and へ]


We have previously taken a look at the particles “は” and “が”, since differentiating between these particles and knowing when to use which can be quite difficult for Japanese learners of any level.
In today’s lesson we will take a look at a similar pair: “に” and “へ”. Both are used to determine a location or direction and can sometimes be used interchangeably, they do express slightly different things. Let’s go over the (very subtle) differences between both particles!


[The basics]

“へ” (read: “e”) was originally the particle that describes a direction, while に (read: “ni”) was used to indicate a place and a destination. Therefore, “へ” is more about the path to the destination and “に” is more about the destination itself.

へ: Emphasis on journey/path to destination
に: Emphasis on desination/places/times

Therefore, “(くるま)()る” ( to get into the car) is correct, while “(くるま)()る” is incorrect.
()る” describes an instantaneous action which does not leave much room for a journey, so the particle “に” which describes an action in relation to a place or time is the correct choice.

To get into the car

[The difference between に and へ]

Let’s take a look at some more examples to clarify the differences in usage of に and へ.

How about these two sentences? Which sentence is correct if you wish to describe your arrival time in Germany?



Remember what we covered earlier: に is used for places, a specific destination or time, and へ emphasises the direction or path to a destination.

In this case, you are talking about a time and a specific destination, so に is the correct choice.

If on the other hand you are talking about the path to the destination, you can use へ. Take a look at the example below:

On the way home, I saw a cute cat.

You cannot use に here as “にの” because you are talking about something that happened on your journey to your destination.

Additionally, someone speaking Japanese might use へ to make the person listening to them pay attention to the path to the destination, usually when the path is long or when there is something special about the path.

For example, if you want to say that you are going to Germany next week, you can use both



来週(らいしゅう)日本(にっぽん)からドイツへ()きます” subtly implies that you want the listener to pay attention to the direction or the path instead of the destination. The speaker’s intentions may for example be to emphasize how long the journey from Japan to Germany takes, whereas “来週(らいしゅう)日本(にっぽん)からドイツに()きます” carries no such implicated meaning.

However, nowadays, especially young people use に most of the time and using へ has gone out of fashion. One reason may be that things have become more instantaneous due to globalization, the internet and improved technologies, which often shorten or eliminate a long process to get to a destination.

For example, in the bible (an “old” text) in Japanese, the Christmas carol “O come, all ye faithful” has a phrase saying “O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem”, which is translated to Japanese as follows:


Here, the path to Bethlehem is long and tiring, so the translator probably chose へ over に to put emphasis on the long journey. Nowadays, with cars, planes and trains, maybe they would have said “さぁ行こう、いざ、ベツレヘムに!”, since they might have been more excited about their destination Bethlehem and not so focused on the long, harsh path to get there.

That’s everything for today. Thank you for reading this article, and please feel free to consult our native Japanese language teachers if you have any further questions!

単語たんごリスト(Vocabulary list)
()() Replacement
可能(かのう) Possible
微妙(びみょう) Delicate, subtle, complicated, dicey
自宅(じたく) One’s home
(かえ)(みち) The way back home, return trip
いざ Now, come now, well

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