Prepositions: 往 wǎng, 从 cóng, 到 dào and 离 lí

从 cóng, 到 dào

从 cóng, 到 dào  are both prepositions with meanings same as “from” and “to”,when 到 dào is used as a verb,  it means “reach”,such as 到家 dào jiā,到学校 dào xuéxiào. We can use the two words separately and also in one phrase, 从 cóng… 到 dào… is used in the same way as “from… to…” , and we can use this phrase for time and places. For example:

她   从    国   外     刚    回   来。
cóng guó wài gāng huí lái.
She just got back from abroad.

   我    家       公司   坐   公交   车   要   很 久。
Cóng wǒ jiā dào gōngsī zuò gōngjiāo chē yào hěn jiǔ.
It takes long time from my house to my company by bus.

    昨天        现在   他  一直       生病。
Cóng zuótiān dào xiànzài tā yīzhí shēngbìng.
He has been sick since yesterday. 

往 wǎng

往 wǎng indicates direction, its meaning is similar to the word “towards” and it can precede a place or a direction,  but try to distinguish it with the word 到 dào,since 到 dào is reaching the destination,  but 往 wǎng focuses more on the journey, for example:

他   往    家   走 了。
wǎng jiā zǒu le
He walked towards the direction of his house (he hasn’t reached home yet).

Also 往 can be located after a few monosyllabic verbs,  which are then followed by location nouns.

开    往    北京     的      火车。
kāi wǎng Běijīng de huǒchē
The train to Bejing.

There is a word 向 xiàng  which is really similar to the word  往 wǎng,and they often creates confusion. Generally speaking these two words sometimes can interchange between them. For Example:

到    第 一 个  路口       往 /   向    左         转。
Dào dì yī gè lùkǒu wǎng /xiàng zuǒ zhuǎn.
Till the first intersection, tun left.

他     往  /  向     我   这儿   跑  来 了。
wǎng /xiàng wǒ zhèr pǎo lái le.
He ran towards me.

Here both words mean “towards”. But 向 xiàng  has other meaning which is facing certain point (direction/location), while 往 wǎng tends to indicate something moves towards a direction. For example:

他    向     我  打  招呼.
xiàng wǒ dǎ zhāohu
He waved at me.

我     家   面     向      大海。
Wǒ jiā miàn xiàng dàhǎi
My house faces the sea.

In this sentence there is no change of location, so we can only use 向 xiàng.

离 lí

离 lí  can also be explained as “from”, but it is only used to address distance. You can not say “go from one place to another” using 离 lí . The structure is:

Place A + 离 + Place B + distance

现在     我们       上海          还有     110   公里。
Xiànzài wǒmen Shànghǎi háiyǒu 110 gōnglǐ
We are now 110 km far from Shanghai.

Place A + 离 + Place B + Adv. + Adj.

那   个  餐厅    这儿 太   远    了, 我们        还是     别  去了。
Nà gè cāntīngzhèr tài yuǎn le ,wǒmen háishì bié qù le.
That restaurant is too far from here, we should not go.

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