What is the purpose of 上 in the sentence, 你上哪儿去? The dictionary says about 上:on top / upon / above / upper / previous / first (of multiple parts) / to climb / to get onto / to go up / to attend (class or university)

I couldn't identify any one of the meanings as suitable for the sentence.

5 Answers 5


In this sentence, means exactly , or go in English. The difference is that is usually used in informal and oral occasions, while can be seen in both formal and informal occasions.

The sentence can be translated into Where're you going?


This use of 上 just means go to; leave for. It's a verb. You can find it defined in dictionaries. E.g.

leave for Beijing;


Where are you going?


We can add 去 at the end in this usage. And it can be omitted. E.g. 你上哪儿去? = 你上哪儿? / 上上海 = 上上海去.


The meaning of "to go up" can be extended to "to go to" or "to visit"


  • 上茶樓: (go up to a restaurant) --> go to a restaurant

  • 上法庭: (go up to the court) --> go to the court

  • 上京: (go up to the capital) --> go to the capital

去 in "上 ~ 去" is a directional particle that indicates 'away to'


上哪儿去: where to

(You can also use the Latin phrase: quo vadis. Most English speakers will understand it.)


English does not really use to in the same way as Chinese or German anymore, so in translation 上哪儿去 becomes, "Where are you going?"

German has the exact equivalent of this 去:hin and it is used a lot. (wohin = whereto, Wohin des Weges? = Where are you going?)

Hi Little Li! Where are you going?

Excuse me, where do you think you are going?

Agnes: Where are you going with that box Hal?


I've no reference but believe the use of 上 was linked to "天".

It can be traced to the sentences "上京趕考", "上京面聖", "述職上京". In those, 上京 means 上去京城, for which 京城 was the capital city, where the Emporer (天子) lived and was the respectively the highest location in the entire country (as the sky, 天), thus "going up to the capital -上去京城" was used respectfully.

Also, the ancient Chinese believed a person's soul would going up to 天 after death, 昇天 was used to indicate a person's death, and "昇" was literally meant "上".

At the time capital punishment was still in practice, the executioner would yell at the death roll inmate before execution "xxx, 是時候該上路了 - xxx, its time to going up to the death journey now". Also, the Chinese often associate death with "走" (a person facing death would ask others to do some favors after death and say 我走候... which means "after my death...), so depends on the situation, 是時候該上路了 can be used when one reminds a traveler "it's about time to go on the journey".

Reminder: 上哪去? The question can be abbreviated as both 上哪? and 去哪? But note that 上去哪? is incorrect. Have fun :)

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