Archive for the ‘往’ Category

Before we begin, a special thanks needs to go out to Mao Yueyan and Li Xiaojiao, who both provided valuable assistance with this article.

Both 向 and 往 are prepositions which have the general meaning of ‘toward’. 

However, their usage and application(s) are quite different.

Phrases which utilise the preposition 往 must express “concrete” directions.  “Concrete” directions include:

Countries (Ex.: 往美国寄)

Directions such as “north, south, east and west”  (Ex.: 往东边看)

Directions such as “left, right, in front, behind, inside, outside” (Ex.: 往里走)

Locations such as “the Great Wall, your apartment, the hospital” (Ex.: 往杭州飞)


往 subsequently takes on the meaning of  “(to go) toward”

向 means “toward” or “to”.  It is often used to indicate movement toward people or objects.  向 can take “concrete” directions and it can take abstract directions.  Take the phrase 走向成功 (towards success) as an example.  It is not possible to use 往 to convey this particular phrase.

A further difference between 往 and 向 is that 向 allows the “target” of a specific action to be indicated.  她向送别的人挥手告别 (She waved towards the people who saw her off).  In this sentence, 向 shows the direction of the action with respect to the recipient (the people who saw her off). 

A simpler example is: 向她介绍一下 (introduce to her) where  向 shows the direction of the action (the introduction) with respect to the intended recipient (her).

The distinction may seem like a mind headache, but it can be summarised like this: 往 = (to go) towards a place/direction, 向 = towards a person/object/abstract notion.

Michael and Jing (thanks again to Yueyan and Xiaojiao)