Where, Whither, Whence and Other Adverbs

February 4, 2010

There are some words in the English language that are not used so much in modern speech that I think are cool. Today, I am thinking of three adverbs of location (where, here, there) that have associated adverbs of motion.

The first one is whither. Whither means "to where". Although it is acceptable to say "where are you going?" A way to express yourself more precisely would be say "whither are you going?". The word where implies that you are currently situated at some location, whereas whither implies you are moving to a new location.

Whither has a companion, named whence. Whence means "from where". So, if I wanted to know where you came from, I could ask, "whence do you come?".

The word here has associated motion words named hither and hence. Hither means "to here", and hence means "from here". "Come hither, my child and see what snack I hold in my hands" and "This party is somewhat boring and I am leaving hence" are good examples of these two words in a sentence.

Also note that hence has another meaning of "therefore".

The word there has two associated motion words that follows the same pattern: thither and thence. Thither means "to there" and thence means "from there". Example sentences include "I heard there was a giant living in that mountain, but I never went thither to find out" and "The townsfolk knew of a giant living in that mountain and when they saw him, they figured he had come thence".

You may not choose to use these words when speaking, since they may sound old-fashioned, but you totally can! It's fun and allows you to be more precise in your speech.

You may also encounter these words when reading literature and this little lesson may help you better understand certain passages where they appear. These words are also used in other compound words, like henceforth, which means "from now on", and whithersoever, which means "to wherever".

Here is a table to sum up the 9 adverbs discussed.

Question where whither whence
Near here hither hence
Far there thither thence