Mary's house is _____ the hair salon. Do you think you can find it?

a. Near to
b. Next to

When I was filling out this question, my answer was "near to" but is wrong according to the page. So now I have that doubt about whether there are any rule about these two combination.


3 Answers 3


I think the question is trying to emphasize that, out of convention, most native speakers would say either "near the salon" or "next to the salon", and likely not "near to the salon," and certainly not "next the salon."

The problem many test writers seem to overlook is that a question like this can really trip up a learner, because the natural follow-up questions that arise are: "Wait? Couldn't we use either one? Is near to incorrect for some reason?"

The answer to that is more complicated than most exam books want to delve into. There are times when "near to" is idiomatic, and I probably wouldn't go so far as to say it's "incorrect" in a context like, "Mary's house is near to the salon."

But getting back to the main thrust of the question, even if I wouldn't deem it "incorrect," I certainly think "Mary's house is next to the salon" is a marked improvement, so I don't have too much of a beef with the point the test question is presumably trying to emphasize.


Next to implies an immediate vicinity; whereas near to implies "a short distance away."

In this way, you can have a next-door neighbour, who lives next to you, but your bank, a short drive away, could be near to your house.

The key to the answer, I think, is the question, "Do you think you can find it?" This would imply that it's easily found by simply looking around. Therefore, it's the "closer" of the two phrases that's being suggested. (If it was only near to, and you couldn't see it, finding it might involve having to ask for directions or looking for it on a map.)

As for near to versus just near, both can be considered correct. Although I suspect that it's more common to use just near (or nearby), adding the to is not wrong. I've heard and used both forms myself. It seems that near to is more common in the UK—and, hence, Canada where I live—than in the US. Those in the US might find that near to sounds strange.

I also found this reference to a discussion of the syntax of the "complex preposition near to."

  • 2
    I basically agree with the difference in meaning, but near to should really be just near in the question. The question may have been written like that on purpose. Only next to is actually idiomatic here and it isn't given.
    – Lambie
    Jun 12, 2018 at 21:27
  • @Lambie I suspect it's a UK versus US distinction—and I've updated my answer. Jun 12, 2018 at 21:39
  • "near to" sounds clumsy to me (not wrong, though); I live in Halifax, Canada (east coast). I'm familiar with some British expressions and ways of saying things, but apparently not this one. Jun 13, 2018 at 5:06
  • @JasonBassford I really find it tiresome (BrE speakers love that word, ha ha) get this BrE bug in their heads. [joke] If you google "quite near to the house" versus "quite near the house" with and without site:.uk, you get the same basic percentages. There are one third more hits without any site designation and with site:.uk for "near the house" than "near to the house". I live in the NE of the U.S. [note to Peter, I love Nova Scotia. Long Live Canada!!] Both are used, neither is "BrE". Cheers.
    – Lambie
    Jun 13, 2018 at 12:03

Most (not all) native speakers say near {some thing or some place} rather than near to {some thing or some place}.

And we say next to {some place} never next {some place}

She left her umbrella near the door.

The hair salon is next to the bookstore.

In your test question, there is a confusing and misleading clue: Do you think you can find it? If something is next to something else, it is adjacent to it, so it is very very easy to find. So the clue is pointing you away from the correct answer, next to. Who would not be able to find something which is located immediately adjacent to something else?!

If you are standing next to your friend in a picture, you are elbow-to-elbow. But if you are only near your friend in a picture, and there are quite a few people in the picture, it may not be so easy for someone to spot your friend in the crowd.

  • 1
    Perhaps whoever wrote the question was imagining that you might not know where the hair salon was. So the challenge isn't just finding Mary's place from the salon, it's finding both of them. Jun 13, 2018 at 5:01
  • @Peter Cordes: Except that the question says "find it" not "find them".
    – TimR
    Jun 13, 2018 at 10:08

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