My Japanese friend asked me why "to" can be omitted in "Where are you heading?"

He asked me if it's because "where" is an adverb but I don't think that's the reason ...

Can someone please help me explain the reason?

  • Surely "to" can be omitted. "where" is indeed an adverb. Basically, both "Where are you heading" and "Where are you heading to" are synonyms. Nov 1, 2017 at 7:24

2 Answers 2


The Japanese often use "to" ni to describe direction.

Tokyo ni (towards / in the direction of Tokyo)

Your example question

Where are you heading?

is a shortended form of

Where are you heading (off) to?
To where are you heading (off)?

A heading is a navagational term meaning in the direction so the "to" can be implied.

If you are driving, you might say

We are heading east on I-95.
We are heading towards New York City.

The British will use the term

When are you heading off? *(BrE)
When are you going / leaving? (AmE)

  • Thank you for the explanation :) Really appreciate it. That's how I was thinking of explaining it.
    – Anna
    Nov 2, 2017 at 6:17
  • By the way, are you studying Japanese? You can also use へ or へと to indicate direction in Japanese although the usage/meaning does slightly differ.
    – Anna
    Nov 2, 2017 at 6:19

The preposition is not always needed in English. Consider these examples:

Where are you going? I'm going to London.

Where did you grow up? I grew up on a farm. the verb is "grow up"

How do you write? I write with a pen.

The preposition is not required, and with "where" questions it is normally not used. (In Japanese a particle would be necessary.) However, with "what" questions a preposition would often be required.

What are you writing? I'm writing a book.

What are you writing with? I'm writing with a pen.

One common exception is the "where...from" pattern.

Where do you come from?

instead of "where do you come".

  • Ah, you're right! A particle would be necessary in Japanese. Maybe that's why he was so confused about that. And thank you for the input. I'll explain what you said in Japanese :)
    – Anna
    Nov 2, 2017 at 6:19

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