_                            ____       _                               
    | | __ _ _ __  ___  ___ _ __ |  _ \ _ __(_) ___ ___   ___ ___  _ __ ___  
 _  | |/ _` | '_ \/ __|/ _ \ '_ \| |_) | '__| |/ __/ _ \ / __/ _ \| '_ ` _ \ 
| |_| | (_| | | | \__ \  __/ | | |  __/| |  | | (_|  __/| (_| (_) | | | | | |
 \___/ \__,_|_| |_|___/\___|_| |_|_|   |_|  |_|\___\___(_)___\___/|_| |_| |_|

Jansen Price

Blog Post

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Where, Whither, Whence and Other Adverbs

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



  1. JansenThursday, September 23rd, 2010

    Any ideas for another blog post?

  2. Andreas FalkenhagenFriday, May 6th, 2011

    Dear Jensen!

    With interest have I read your article on “Whence”, “Whither” etc. I’m not an English native speaker, although in my everyday life I often deal with those whose mother tongue is English. As I have noticed (and you also point it out) the said words are practically never used while people talk with each other (or “one another”? which sounds better?).
    Of course one frequently comes across these words when (or while?) reading literature. Perhaps it has some geographical aspects. I mean there territories where people use them in their general speech? (A British acquaintance of mine says using “one” as I did in previous sentence nowadays is old-fashioned. In such cases it’s better to use “you”. Is he right?)
    I would be very much obliged if once in a while I could ask you questions about English grammar and usage.
    Keep well,
    (Moscow, Russia)

  3. A.FalkenhagenFriday, September 30th, 2011

    How you doing Jansen?
    As you probably remember, I wrote you a letter earlier this year with some questions on English grammar and asked whether I could ask you further questions. Your response was positive. So I guess you won’t mind to answer:
    1) Can I say “What’s up?” just a as a simple greeting not supposed to get an answer on how the individual is really doing or how heshe is coping with hisher problems?
    2) If I forgot to take something with me, can I just say like “I forgot my mobile phone at home” or is it better “I left my phone at home”?
    3) In the latest album by Whitesnake they sing “Tell me how can I win your love?”. Is it correct, or the right way to say is “Tell me how I can win your love?”?

  4. Colin NewmanMonday, June 10th, 2013

    Once, twice, thrice, what comes next? Thrice is obsolescent, and I think twic is going the same way.

  5. AlfgaarFriday, June 28th, 2013

    Those words (whence, whither, hence, hither, thence, thither) are no more used because modern english is no longer a declined language, those words are in genitive, dative cases in an analogy with the latin grammar. Ancient english has more cases and apply to all sorts of words. Modern english counts exclusively on prepositions to assert circunstances and relations, so endings expressing cases (i prefer the word circunstance) fell off, they are just confusing in the new train of thought.

  6. joelThursday, May 8th, 2014

    Alfgaar is mistaken about the cases matter, and,in my opinion, about almost everything else in the comment. The deixis words ought to be learned by everyone who professes to know English.

  7. MohanFriday, September 26th, 2014

    This helped me in philosophical contexts.

  8. Donald B. ArdellSaturday, May 23rd, 2015

    In "An Oration at a Child's Grave," Robert Green Ingersoll on January 9, 1882, the great orator said: "Every cradle asks us "Whence?" and every coffin "Whither?" The poor barbarian weeping above his dead can answer the question as intelligently and satisfactorily as the robed priest of the most authentic creed. The tearful ignorance of the one is just as consoling as the learned and unmeaning words of the other."

  9. Thomas Jay RushSunday, July 19th, 2015

    In this passage: "...this little lesson may help you better understand certain passages where they appear," you could have said "...certain passages when they appear." Is that correct?

  10. andreasThursday, September 29th, 2016

    Very cool!

    These two are very much reminiscent of „hin“ (directional movement away from the speaker) and „her“ (directional movement toward the speaker), which are two very, very important directional words in German. The constructions „wohin“ (meaning and corresponding to the English „whence“) and „woher“ (meaning „whither“) follow the same trend.
    I believe you gained this not from your Latin roots, but from your proto-Germanic side of the family. ;)

  11. TraceyThursday, August 3rd, 2017

    Interesting. I'm a native English speaker and was well aware of 'whither/whence', although I would be unlikely to use them. I also vaguely knew about 'hither/hence' ('hither' moreso I really just associate 'hence' with the 'therefore' meaning).I have never heard of 'thither/thence' though. Obviously modern German retains these distinctions,and it's nice to know they still exist in English, even if they are seldom used now.

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