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Using "dao" to mean "to go to"

Chinese-grammar-wiki-dao.jpg

A simple and direct way to indicate that you or someone is going to a specific place or has arrived at a specific place is to use the verb 到 (dào).

到 (dào) for Arriving in a Place

Structure

The verb 到 (dào) is used to talk about arriving in places.

Subj. + 到 + Place

Examples

For these examples, it's straightforward to think of 到 (dào) as simply meaning "to arrive."

  • 他们 已经 酒吧 了。 Tāmen yǐjīng dào jiǔbā le.They have already arrived at the bar.
  • 我 刚 家。 Wǒ gāng dào jiā.I just got home.
  • 机场 了 吗? dào jīchǎng le ma?Have you arrived at the airport?
  • 我 已经 火车站 了。 Wǒ yǐjīng dào huǒchēzhàn le.I've already arrived at the train station.
  • 我们 先 北京 , 然后 香港。 Wǒmen xiān dào Běijīng, ránhòu dào Xiānggǎng.First we'll arrive in Beijing, then in Hong Kong.

In some examples translating 到 (dào) as "to arrive" doesn't work as well and you might need to expand your understanding of exactly what 到 (dào) means. That's what we'll examine below.

Going to a Place and Performing an Action

Structure

If you are going to a place to do something else, you can first use 到 (dào) to indicate where you're going, then add another verb after that. This has the meaning of "going to the place to do something," and it's one case where the "arrive" translation doesn't really work anymore.

Subj. + 到 + Place + Verb Phrase

Examples

  • 明天 我 要 南京 路 买 衣服。 Míngtiān wǒ yào dào Nánjīng Lù mǎi yīfu.Tomorrow I'll go to Nanjing Road to buy clothes.
  • 你们 晚上 哪儿 吃饭 啊?Nǐmen wǎnshang dào nǎr chīfàn a?Where will you all go to eat food this evening?
  • 我 跟 朋友 经常 KTV 唱歌 。 Wǒ gēn péngyou jīngcháng dào KTV chànggē.I often go to Karaoke to sing songs with friends.
  • 今年 春节 我 要 女朋友 家 见 她 的 父母 。 Jīnnián Chūnjié wǒ yào dào nǚpéngyou jiā jiàn tā de fùmǔ.This Spring Festival I am going to my girlfriend's house to meet her parents.
  • 下 个 月 我 要 美国 出差。 Xià gè yuè wǒ yào dào Měiguó chūchāi.Next month I need to go to the USA on a business trip.

You might be wondering: can I just use 去 (qù) instead of 到 (dào)? For sentences like this, yes, you can. But native speakers will frequently use 到 (dào) in this way, so it's still good to be familiar with this pattern. If you want to sound more native, you should use it too!

到 (dào), 去 (qù), and 走 (zǒu)

Sometimes it can be hard to figure out exactly which word to use in Chinese to mean "go." 到 (dào) is used when you talk about arriving at a place, emphasizing the destination. 去 (qù) is used when you are going to a place. The exact meaning is "to go," and it emphasizes getting to somewhere. 走 (zǒu) is used when talking about "leaving." The emphasis is on getting away from a particular place.

See also

Sources and further reading

Books