by Don  

The word куда means where in the sense of “where to?” This word give us English speakers problems at first because in English we use the same “where” word for both location and motion. That is, in English you can say both “Where are you going?” (motion to) and “Where do you work?” (location at). Куда can only be used in “motion to” contexts. So if you meet a friend while walking across campus, and you want to know where he is going, then куда is the only option:

— Куда ты идёшь?
— В библиотеку.
“Where are you going?”
“To the library.”
— Куда вы идёте?
— В кафе. Хочешь пойти с нами?
“Where are you going?”
“To a cafe. Do you want to come with us?”

If you are chatting with someone on the train or bus or plane or boat, then again куда is the only option when asking where your collocutor is going:

— Куда вы едете?
— На Камчатку еду.
— Ой, у вас долгий путь.
“Where are you going?”
“I'm heading to Kamchatka.”
“Wow, you have a long trip ahead of you.”
— Куда вы летите?
— В Казань.
— Правда? Казань отличный город, очень люблю.
“Where are you flying to?”
“To Kazan.”
“Really? Kazan is an excellent city. I really like it.”
— Куда вы направляетесь? В Хельсинки или в Стокгольм?
— В Хельсинки.
“Where are you heading? To Helsinki or to Stockholm?”
“To Helsinki.”

Куда can also be used as a relative pronoun, assuming again that you are talking about a place someone is going to:

Я купил эти яблоки на рынке, куда ты раньше ходила покупать. I bought these apples at the market that you used to go to to buy [things].
Мой папа работает в школе, куда ты раньше ходил. My father works at the school that you used to go to.

Now here is a subtlety that lots of foreigners never get. It is possible to use где with verbs of motion, but it doesn't mean “where to.” Instead it identifies the location at which the motion is currently occuring. For instance, let's say you are a foreigner in a Russian city, riding a bus with your friend. You don't recognize what street you are riding on so you say:

— Где мы едем?
— На улице Калинина.
“What street are we riding on?”
“On Kalinin street.”

That said, most of the time when you have a verb of motion, you will used куда instead of где.

1 comment

Comment from: Gremin [Visitor]

If we all went back to using whither and whence this would not present a problem !
I suppose the Germans with their wohin and woher, get the concept a lot easier.

01/15/11 @ 03:11

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