As if them sharing a common appearance isn't enough, yabla shows that they can for the most part be used interchangeably. Since they mean nearly the same exact thing with a few caveats, what is the point of them having so much overlap? Why is there a need for 到 to exist at all?

  • 到,至也。——《说文》至,到也。——《广韵》So they are almost the same thing, except for through history different meanings attached to them respectively. Sep 26, 2019 at 1:19
  • 至 is more formal in modern usage.
    – dan
    Sep 26, 2019 at 8:43
  • Agree. Compare:-何至于此?-怎么会到这个地步?-三日不至,吾其还也。-三天都没到,我还是回去吧。-风雨骤至。-狂风大雨突然到来。-忧心孔疚,至彻夜不瞑。-担心害怕到了整夜睡不着觉。-力有不逮,情有不至。-力量也不足,感情也不能达到。 Sep 26, 2019 at 8:55
  • 到 is basically the modern version of 至.
    – Seaky Lone
    Sep 26, 2019 at 15:20
  • They have a common appearance because 至 is the semantic component in 到.
    – dROOOze
    Sep 27, 2019 at 9:36

2 Answers 2


Both 到 and 至 can function as "preposition" (to) or "result/ degree complement" (until; to the point of). The difference is 到 is more colloquial and 至 is more literary


戰至一兵一卒 (fight to the last man) is a very literary phrase, in colloquial form, this phrase would become 戰鬥到剩下最後一個士兵.

It is not recommended to replace "至" with "到" in literary phrases like 戰至一兵一卒, 延至凌晨 (delay until midnight) and specially not in idioms like 至死不渝 ( you cannot say 到死不渝)

Other differences:

  • Both 至 and 到 has the meaning of "arrive" and the difference is still literary and colloquial.

  • 至 has the meaning of "ultimate" or "utmost" that 到 doesn't has. e.g. 至高 cannot be changed to 到高

  • 到 can function as a result complement that indicate the verb is successful, e.g. 學到 cannot be changed to 學至


implies an end destination while does not.
到 means to arrive to a destination, but it may not be the end destination.

至 has a stronger meaning, thus they are not interchangeable all the time.

至 is usually followed by an extreme situation, death, or a strict deadline of something
戰至一兵一卒 means to fight until every one is no longer able to fight (death)

到 is followed by a condition, which may not be extreme
戰鬥到剩下最後一個士兵 is one of the condition, you can also write
戰鬥到剩下三十個士兵 to fight until meeting the condition of 30 solders left
戰至三十個士兵 is also accepted, but it implies you have nothing left but these 30 solders

到 is used in 到此一遊, which means I was there
至此一遊 is not correct because 一遊 implies one of the destination, not the end destination
事已至此 implies things have already come to this extreme situation
事已到此 is "ok" but not usually used because 已 implies already, which usually requires a more extreme situation

  • Both 至 and 到 can be used for "arrive at a destination", It doesn't mean the destination must be the final one. For example: "由伦敦到纽约,然后由纽到多伦多" is the same as "伦敦至纽约, 纽约至多伦多" (From London to New York, and then from New York to Toronto). You thought "至" (to) imply an end destination because "至" also has the meaning of "ultimate" or "utmost", but when "至" is used as "to" or "arrive: , it has the same meaning of 到
    – Tang Ho
    Oct 2, 2019 at 9:22
  • "事已至此" has the same weight as "事情既然到了這個地步". Again, you are confused the adjective "至" (ultimate/utmost) with the preposition "至" (to)
    – Tang Ho
    Oct 2, 2019 at 9:31
  • When 到 is followed by a condition, that 到 is not the preposition 到 (to) but the "result/ degree complement" 到 (until/ to the point of) and 至 also has this function
    – Tang Ho
    Oct 2, 2019 at 9:44
  • "至"and"到" is not always interchangeable. 到此一遊 says it all
    – wada
    Oct 7, 2019 at 23:57
  • 事已"至"此<=>事情既然"到了這個"地步, 至 can't be replaced by just "到" alone here
    – wada
    Oct 7, 2019 at 23:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.