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Earlier while chatting, I wrote a sentence and a native speaker told me it was correct. The sentence was:

某天我去北京。= Someday I'll go to Beijing.
(mǒu tiān wǒ qù Běi jīng)

I noticed that no prepositions are used here. It's probably because I'm still a beginner, but then I wondered: if it's true that 到 can mean "to (a place)", why isn't it used in that sentence? Are there some rules I'm not aware of or something I'm missing?

Also: when should we use 到? What are the situations/contexts that need it?

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I am native and 某天我去北京 does NOT have any implication of time. It sounds like an incomplete sentence too, so when I hear it I would be expecting a story that follows (what happened to you in Beijing). That would make it past-tense. If you want to say it in future tense, like how you put it in English. Then you should say 某天我会去北京的。 Essentially "One day, I will go to Beijing." Sorry for being off topic but I think its worth pointing out, since there is no go/went/gone (tense embedded in a verb) in Chinese. – Gapton Jan 12 '12 at 2:54
To mean "Someday I'll go to Beijing", and use "到", I'll say: "哪天我要到北京去耍耍". – congliu Aug 29 '13 at 16:48
up vote 12 down vote accepted

First, grammars of Chinese and English are totally different, you don't need the preposition like in English.

Second, in my opinion, 去 indicates that you start the action of "going to a place",and "到" indicates that you have finished that action, so you "reach a place " or "arrive at a place".

An example:


I will go to Beijing by train this Tuesday and I will arrive on Wednesday.

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I accepted yours because I appreciated the example with both the characters being used... :) – Alenanno Jan 22 '12 at 12:31

A significant difference between Chinese and English is that sometimes the border between a "verb" and a "preposition" is blurred. In your case, both "去" and "到" has the meaning of "go", "go to", "reach", or "visit", and therefore can be used interchangeably.

You don't need a preposition if you use a transitive verb to translate "去": 某天我去北京。 = Some day I'll visit Beijing.

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What's the difference between 某天我去北京 and 某天我到北京, then? – Alenanno Dec 16 '11 at 17:59
@Alenanno: <beginner>The second version (某天我到北京) sounds to me like "I was in Beijing one unspecified day in the past" or maybe "I came to Beijing one day"?</beginner> Hopefully, someone will clarify.. – dr Hannibal Lecter Dec 17 '11 at 14:22
Frank, did you see the question? :) – Alenanno Dec 25 '11 at 10:49

more or less means "to arrive (at)," means "go to (someplace)."

E.g., 你到18歲才能喝酒。You can drink alcohol, when you are (lit. "arrive at") (the age of) 18.

When used together with (e.g., 到马路那边去), it tells someone to go somewhere or do something.

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Huang and Krazer's answers already point you in the right direction.

I cannot find an example where 到 alone means to go.

You should use 到 (when alone) has you would use the verb arrive in English.

到家我要睡觉. When I arrive home (when I am back at home) I need to sleep.

我到北京了. I arrived at Beijing.

到 indicates a final point, a destination.

It can also be used in combination with 去 to indicate the final destination of a journey (more or less long distance) and thus add the idea of movement, travel.

Note the nuance in the following examples:

我去北京. I (will) go to Beijing.

我到北京去. I (will) travel to Beijing.

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某天我去北京 is arguably wrong due to the lack of any indication of tense. I will not be able to determine from this sentence the tense, therefore I will not know what exactly are you trying to say.

某天我去到北京 will be interpreted as past tense, since 去到 essentially means "arrived at".

某天我会去北京的 will be interpreted as future tense. 会+verb means something you are going to do (or have planned to do).

I guess the use of 某天 ruled out present tense.

Also note that, "someday" in English usually indicates a day in the future (Someday, I will beat you in Chess!). However 某天 is NOT exactly the same because it can refer to any day, past or future. So 某天 is more like "one day" in English.

So, your sentence would actually be interpreted as:

One day, I [go/went/will go] to Beijing.

Hence the doubt.

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