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when I use 上 /下 /东/ 南 /里 etc. how do I know If I have to use 边 /面 /头?

I normally use 面, as in 书在桌子上面, but I want to be sure I'm right.

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  • One thing for sure is that 頭(=头) doesn't work with cardinal points. – L Parker Apr 28 at 7:40
  • I think those words can be used interchangeably, maybe historically there were stricter usage, as clearly, 面 refers to surface, 头 refers to end, and 边 refers to edge. I can imagine they could have different special usage, but I don't have an example on top of my head. All of them sounds okay to me, and 头 is more dialectal. – sylvia Apr 29 at 18:31
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There are regional and personal differences.

I personally usually use 边. (BTW I am a native.)

面 is also OK and feels neutral to me.

头 sometimes sounds like having a dialectal flavor to me. Also, the different combinations are not always the same. For instance, 里头 feels quite neutral but 东头 feels more dialectal to me.

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It depends on what you want to express:

东头/西头:direction for a street 商场在这条街的东头 The market is located at the east end of the street (indicats that the street is in WE direction) (however,we rearly use 南头 and 北头,which sound strange)

东面/西面:describe the side 商场在这条街的东面 The market is located at the east side of the street(indicats that the street is in NS direction)

里面/外面 a more general description 里头 sounds like something you can look into/reach your head into,or something you'd like to inspect the internal 让我们看看这里头有什么玄机 lets see the inside if there is any special mechanism

(屋外头,is the only thing i've ever heard for 外头)

for me,x头 seems come from dialect

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