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に/へ difference

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Hi, I'm studying the very useful 'verb stem + に行く/来る/帰る' structure, but I'm at a loss when it comes to using に or へ. The textbook says the structure is:

destination of movement + に/へ + purpose of movement に + 行く/来る/帰る

but I have no idea when to use に or へ, and the book only says they're interchangeable, but doesn't say more on the matter. I'm guessing that there is some subtle difference between, say:
  • 京都に買いに行きました。
  • 京都へ買いに行きました。
Also, would it sound natural to exchange the に? For example, 昼ご飯を食べに家に帰ります
 
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Here's an interesting bit (under 4.3.5 - if you see mojibake set encoding to EUC-JP)

Basically, most people will say there's "no real difference", but then there might be some cases where they'll say one sounds more natural than another (he says 「来る」 as an example where he finds に often sounds more natural, and offers up some verbs that often take へ - the list right at the end - although に can also be used with them). It's sometimes explained as に being "destination" and へ being "direction", but that often doesn't help, I find, in understanding why native speakers use/prefer one over the other.

in the V-stemに行く form the verb stem should always take に but you can put へ after the destination so
食べに家へ帰ります is also okay.

Watch out for stuff where there's an overlap between "destination" and "purpose" uses of に .
○買い物に行く
☓買い物へ行く (買い物 is not really a place)
○仕事に行く (destination or purpose)
○仕事へ行く (destination - 仕事 implies 仕事場)
○仕事に戻る (commonly used for "purpose")
△仕事へ戻る (??? not sure on this. Somehow feels less okay than 仕事へ行く)
but
○会社へ戻る (destination so へ is fine)

Please do wait for someone who knows what they're talking about to come along and point out my mistakes. :)
 
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First of all, thanks for the explanation. Unfortunately, my browser (Chrome) doesn't display the website correctly. All I see are these strange chars:

EDIT: FIXED. Changed the encoding to Japanese EUC-JP
 
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That's what I meant by "mojibake". Usually it's because the website doesn't properly tell the browser what encoding it's using. You need to set the character encoding to "EUC-JP" (it has probably defaulted to something else). In chrome I think it's under the "hamburger" (that little button with three lines) → more tools → encoding.

The problem is there are several ways to represent Japanese characters on a computer, none of which agree with one another. It's a common issue (also seen on this forum since the upgrade).
 

Mike Cash

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At this point in your studies, this is the sort of arcane crap that will do more to meaninglessly bog your progress down than add something valuable to your skills. You can't stop and examine every clover in the field if you hope to get across it.

If there is any adverse effect to be suffered from not being able to split this particular hair I have yet to encounter it. For all practical purposes, you may safely treat them as interchangeable.
 
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Hi, I'm studying the very useful 'verb stem + に行く/来る/帰る' structure, but I'm at a loss when it comes to using に or へ.
Here is a webpage that I think answers exactly your question:

http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/verbparticles

= the section on the particles に, へ, で etc. used with verbs,
from Tae Kim's excellent book on Japanese Grammar.
(I just discovered that book and I wish I had discovered it
earlier.)

Good luck,

Menno ( メンノー )
 
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Just wanted to know if the difference is something I should take into account. If it isn't that important, I'll just keep using に.
 
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Hello thesuker さん,

Just wanted to know if the difference is something I should take into account. If it isn't that important, I'll just keep using に.
That is the type of question that is really impossible for other people to answer for you categorically, because to a very significant degree the answer depends on what *you* consider to be important (which we can not know).

I'm very much a beginner myself, but I think the importance is simple to judge from the following two example sentences (adapted from Tae Kim):

1)
日本 に 行 = Nihon ni iku
Meaning: to travel TO Japan.
That is, the journey goes all the way into Japan,
and the goal of the journey is to actually arrive in Japan.

2)
日本 へ 行 = Nihon e iku
Meaning: To travel TOWARDS Japan. That is, some person
is on a large journey, and in a part of the journey,
the direction he takes happens to be towards Japan,
but Japan isn't necessarily the end destination.

Compare: The second sentence is very much alike to
東 へ 行 = Higashi e iku = To travel TOWARDS the east.

I'm a beginner, but somehow I would conjecture that probably it isn't possible to say 東 に 行 higashi ni iku (that would probably mean something strange like "to travel INTO the east").

So as to whether the difference between に and へ is important, you will have to judge for yourself from instances like the above whether in cases like these the difference is important TO YOU. I.e. do you want to attain a Japanese level where you can express "to travel towards the east" without sounding strange ?

Another question you'll have to answer for yourself (and that we can not know your view about) is whether you want to attain a level of ability to "think in Japanese" while speaking the language and want to know the ways of expression particular to that language, -- or whether you want to learn to speak Japanese via literally translating English expressions to Japanese.

I'd guess that from the two, the particle に may be the one that is used the most (doing simple counts of occurrences, regardless of meanings). I'd guess also that in a pinch, when you're in a hurry to formulate an urgent question in the middle of a busy street in Tokyo, and when in doubt between the two, a sensible fallback rule may be to use に. I'd guess that, even if you may sound strange, you will very probably be understood.

These are my impressions on the importance of the difference between に and へ, as far as I can make out from my beginner's level.

Good luck & with best regards,
Menno ( メンノー )
 

Toritoribe

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There are various theories as to the difference in meaning between に and へ among linguists. Some say that there is a slight difference between them, and some say there is no difference. I've read a linguist points out that as far as he knows there is no Japanese textbook that emphasizes the difference aggressively. Anyway, I think ボブは日本に行った。 and ボブは日本へ行った。are the same, for instance.
https://jref.com/forum/threads/purpose-へきた-の中でも.55687/
This is my opinion as a native Japanese speaker.
 
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Hello Toritoribe さん,

You're a native Japanese speaker!, I didn't know that, I am sorry. That does give your words more force. It's a pleasure to meet people who are proficient in multiple languages. Thank you for your corrections on our beginner's mistakes, which is much appreciated, and thank you for insisting in this specific case.

There are various theories as to the difference in meaning between に and へ among linguists. Some say that there is a slight difference between them, and some say there is no difference. I've read a linguist points out that as far as he knows there is no Japanese textbook that emphasizes the difference aggressively. Anyway, I think ボブは日本に行った。 and ボブは日本へ行った。are the same, for instance.
Thank you for that. So you're saying that for a native speaker, the difference is (often?) so slight as to be insignificant or even nonexistent. That is understood.

Allow me to still bother you further by bringing it to the point where it seems (to me as definitely very much a beginner) that a more definite choice between the two would seem to be necessary. Namely, I'd like to ask your view on the following two example cases:

1) What would you use when you're, say, in the middle of Russia, and when you're discussing whether to travel either west (towards Europe) or east (towards Japan), i.e. the discussion is about travel DIRECTION for, say, only the next few kilometers, and the discussion is not about reaching Europe or Japan as a final destination.
In that case of discussing directions only (and not final destinations), would you still use 「ヨーロッパ に 行く」 or 「日本 に 行く」 ?

2) And, what about 「東 へ 行」 ?
In that phrase, would you still say that you can freely use either one of に or へ without sounding strange and/or without any change in meaning?

---
I'm still coming back to you on the "there is no thing" issue (for which thanks again for your correction), am at the moment struggling through my grammar books :).

With best regards,
Menno ( メンノー )
 
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Hello Toritoribe さん,

As a PS to my previous post, I'd like to add just one more example case to submit to you for comment, this time approaching things from the other side, namely:

3)
猫 は 部屋 に いる = The cat is in the room.

Would you say that in that sentence, one can freely replace に by へ without sounding strange?

Thanks & best regards,
Menno ( メンノー )
 

Toritoribe

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1)
I would use ヨーロッパの方に行く/日本の方に行く, not ヨーロッパへ行く/日本へ行く as in Tae Kim's example. ~の方へ is also possible, and I don't feel any difference between ~の方に and ~の方へ. へ indicates the destination in ヨーロッパへ行く/日本へ行く as same as に, imo.

2)
Yes. See examples quoted from a corpus.

JRのガードをくぐって東に行くと、勝竜寺城公園に出る。
京都新発見 歴史をたずねて 京都歴史教育者協議会編著

しかしある時、神から東に行けとの声がかかり『東に行けば何かがあるのだろうか』と我が家から東の方角の神社に、寺にとお参りを致しました
神の記録 花野絹代著

群馬県内では、最も多いのは西上州で、東に行くほど数が少なくなりほとんど影をひそめてしまう。
群馬の川と道その姿にふれる ひと・かわ・みち  国土交通省高崎河川国道事務所|監修 上毛新聞社編

首都アンマンのある東に行くと山岳地帯が盛り上がる。
中東入門書 「知らなかったこと」「知りたかったこと」すべてがわかる ミスター・パートナー海外取材班編

「修行なら東に行くことじゃな」白中岳は横からそう言った。
桃源郷 上(西遷編) 陳舜臣著

東に行こうとは思っているよ。
旅涯ての地 下 坂東眞砂子著

タイ湾をはさんで西に行くか、東に行くか。
面白いほどよくわかるタイ裏ワザの旅 やまだひろなが著

姉帰から東に行くと再び霧の発生日数が多くなり
長江流域 内山幸久編著

西門慶はまず東に行った
金瓶梅 1 村上知行訳

十字路から十メートルほど東に行ったところには、紺色のフォード・シエラが停まっており、
メサイア ボリス・スターリング著 野沢佳織訳

山の方に向わずそのまま海を右に見ながら東に行くと、それはなだらかな坂道になり、
探訪日本の庭 3 石堂淑朗著

3)
に indicates the location of existence, not the direction, in that sentence. You can't use へ here.
 
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Hello Toritoribe さん,

Thank you for your very detailed and helpful reply.

1) I would use ヨーロッパの方に行く/日本の方に行く, not ヨーロッパへ行く/日本へ行く as in Tae Kim's example. ~の方へ is also possible, and I don't feel any difference between ~の方に and ~の方へ. へ indicates the destination in ヨーロッパへ行く/日本へ行く as same as に, imo.
Heh, I had already faintly suspected that the answer might be that the Japanese, instead of simple 「へ」, actually use a completely different construction to express the "direction towards" meaning. That is good information.
So the conclusion is that in this case there is really no information at all in the distinction between に and へ. And that when Japanese want to express clearly the meaning of "direction", they do not use the (supposed) difference between に and へ, but instead they use a completely different dimension, namely a different construction, namely 「xの方に」.


2) Yes. See examples quoted from a corpus.
That is impressive, with specification of the sources and all. (You give the impression that you must have somehow had that lying ready at your fingertips.) These examples are pretty convincing that one can indeed say 「東に行く」 without it sounding strange. Many thanks! どうも ありがとう ございます。 So my hypothesis that 「東に行く」 would sound strange is plain wrong.

I'm sending this reply at a point where I've quickly looked over everything and where I'm only about halfway through translating in detail all of the sentences (and halfway through wikipedia-ing to learn about the books they come from just out of curiousity).


3) に indicates the location of existence, not the direction, in that sentence. You can't use へ here.
Aha, so there does exist a definite clearly defined category of cases in which the choice of either に or へ does matter.


---
Allow me to summarize as clearly and explicitly as I can what we've learned so far in this thread about に or へ, to check whether I've now understood things correctly. I'm taking the liberty to formulate my summary as a concrete "rule". (The "rule" is meant only in the sense of a temporary handhold -- we dummies who're new to a language occasionally need to formulate these, in order to advance into more nuanced language understanding.)

The rule is very simple. The only thing that one needs to do is to check what kind of verb is used in the phrase. We need to make a distinction between

(A) verbs that express static location in a place, such as "Bob is in the kitchen" or "The book lies in the middle of the table".
In phrases with this type of verb, only the particle に can be used, and へ is wrong.

(B) verbs that express movement, such as 「日本に行く」 or 「日本の方に行く」.
In phrases with this type of verb, the difference between に and へ is in effect nonexistent. In these phrases, native speakers use either particle indiscriminately, and neither particle sounds strange in these phrases.

Would that be a sensible rule, as a rough first guide, for a language learner new to the language?

If correct, then I think that this means that in fact one can always use 「に」. 「に」 is correct in all cases, and never sounds strange. It is only for the particle 「へ」 that a distinction must be made between verbs of static location (where へ is wrong) and verbs of movement (were へ is okay).



---
So much for the concrete rules. Moving on to completely impractical academic "blue skies" philosophy, of course as always I have further questions (nonphilosophers please ignore the rest of this post) ...

The fact that へ can not be used with verbs of static location, how is that fact perceived from the viewpoint of a native speaker? Is it just a rule with no explanation? (as 99% of any language is --- such as for example in German many of the rules for the cases used with certain prepositions, which to native speakers are nothing more than automatic, arbitrary rules completely beyond any idea of "meaning" expressed by the cases). Or does the rule for へ have associations with the meaning that is perceived inside the particle 「へ」?

That is, does there adhere some *meaning* of movement to the particle 「へ」? (Movement in contrast to to static location, and probably without any meaning of "direction" associated with the movement.) And could に and へ be different in meaning, but only in this respect that へ does possess this association in meaning with movement, while in the particle に any association of the perceived meaning of the particle with either movement or static location is absent?


---
With best regards,
Menno ( メンノー )
 
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Mike Cash

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One very important difference between something like

日本に/へ行く
東に/へ行く

is that 日本 is a place you can actually get to, while no matter how 東 you go you can always go 東 some more. (Unless you read 東 as あずま, which is a place name in Gunma and I have arrived there many times).

As I mentioned earlier, for the beginning learner this is a total non-issue. For the foreign learner, just consider them interchangeable and keep on stepping along with your studies. You're going to blow so many things that DO make a difference in meaning that it is ASININE to fixate on understanding something as pointless and arcane as the hair-splitting differences between に/へ when nobody is going to notice any "error" to begin with.

Tae Kim's much celebrated guide is, in my opinion, overrated. When I finally went to see what all the fuss was about, my impressions were: 1) it's better than nothing and 2) it's worth what you paid for it.
 
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As I mentioned earlier, for the beginning learner this is a total non-issue. For the foreign learner, just consider them interchangeable and keep on stepping along with your studies. You're going to blow so many things that DO make a difference in meaning that it is ASININE to fixate on understanding something as pointless and arcane as the hair-splitting differences between に/へ when nobody is going to notice any "error" to begin with.
They are interchangeable ... EXCEPT with verbs of static location (= I guess that probably means just ある and いる), where the difference is in fact hugely important namely へ is wrong and に is compulsory (which is a point that you missed, and which, to believe Toritoribe, is an error that people ARE going to notice).

Tae Kim's much celebrated guide is, in my opinion, overrated. When I finally went to see what all the fuss was about, my impressions were: 1) it's better than nothing and 2) it's worth what you paid for it.
You seem to like that phrase "worth what you paid for it" a lot.:):) Just stating that the book is bad and stopping there isn't really helpful. Please give examples of HOW Tae Kim's book is bad.

---
I admit that I tend to have a flowery, philosophical, "hair-splitting" style of writing and of thinking, and I hope that this doesn't truly generate too much irritation. Please know that in the end, although on the way there I may tend to seek to have fun philosophizing, my end goal is clarity and simple understandable "rules" that are practically useful. I agree totally that in the end anything that is not practically useful is worthy of elimination. If I am close to transgressing in any way, then I would positively welcome a brief hint from one of the moderators.

With best regards,
Menno ( メンノー )
 
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Well according to 大辞林:
に has the definition of 帰着点や動作の及ぶ方向を表す。

へ has 2 definitions.
動作・作用の向けられる方向を示す
動作・作用の帰着点を示す

The only real difference is 動作の及ぶ方向 vs 動作の向けられる方向. Action affect vs action facing a certain direction. Really no diff in practice. I have a feeling author just wanted to say the same thing 2 different ways.

居る 在る indicates existence which に functions as 場所・範囲を指定する. Not indicating direction. へ does not have this function so you can't use it.

I totally understand the urge to split hair. Japanese is an interesting language :).
 
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Mike Cash

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They are interchangeable ... EXCEPT with verbs of static location (= I guess that probably means just ある and いる), where the difference is in fact hugely important namely へ is wrong and に is compulsory (which is a point that you missed, and which, to believe Toritoribe, is an error that people ARE going to notice).
I figured anybody working from decent beginner's materials had already had that explained to them.


You seem to like that phrase "worth what you paid for it" a lot.:):)
So what if I do? You seem to like juvenile emoticons and trite, threadbare closing salutations.

Just stating that the book is bad and stopping there isn't really helpful. Please give examples of HOW Tae Kim's book is bad.
I don't recall having mentioned his book.

If it's so great, how come you've been stuck in "beginner" so long?
 
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Hello Morphling さん,

Thank you for your infos on に and へ. I'll come back to you on this shortly (maybe tomorrow or at the latest in the weekend).

I totally understand the urge to split hair. Japanese is an interesting language :).
That is very pleasing to hear. I agree with that point of view.

With best regards,
Menno ( メンノー )
 
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The important thing to remember with natural languages (as opposed to designed languages like programming languages or conlangs) are not going to follow simple rules. Often in materials aimed at beginners you will find simplified explanations that are presumably aimed at providing some guidelines for people to start off with, and as far as it goes that's not always a bad thing. But you can't expect to find a simple rule that will explain 100% of uses.

It would be like trying to draw a single line through Belgium to separate "French" vs "Dutch". There will always be places where the distinction is not clear. (And even attempting to draw the line will probably make somebody annoyed at you).

There are plenty of interesting linguistics papers which dig into some corpus of written or spoken Japanese and try to explain the differences, but in the end they're only describing how native speakers use the language.

Here's one called
格助詞「に」「へ」の分布に関する調査
(survey into the distribution of the case marking particles "ni" and "e")
(just quoting snippets of interest)

機能の違いの他に、地域差を指摘するものもある。靏岡(1979)は、明治以降の作家の
作品を分析し、方向を示す助詞「に」と「へ」には地域差があり、江戸、東京の出身者は
「へ」を使い、九州出身者は「に」を使う傾向が強いと述べている。しかし、その傾向は
現代の共通語では失われているようである。山西・駒走(2005)は現代の小説や大学生の
文章を調査し、現在は「に」が優勢であると主張している。また、現代の文学作品や日刊
紙の記事において、「へ」と「に」が同一の作品、記事の中の同一の動詞で併用されてい
ることから、に」と「へ」の厳密な使い分けの基準はないとも指摘している

Basically, a 1979 study looking at work of authors from the Meiji period onwards found a regional difference in usage, but that seems to have been lost in the modern language. A 2005 study found that に was more predominant but also that modern literature and newspaper articles treat "e" and "ni" the same, with examples given of both being used in the same article, and concluded that there was no strict criterion by which their usage could be separated.

The paper itself looks at conversations in drama and in blogs, and doesn't come to any really strong conclusion except that they can't disagree with the finding that に is becoming more predominant, and that this should be kept in mind when teaching Japanese.
今回の調査では、ドラマの会話やブログなど会話の文脈や状況、更には数量も限られていたため一般化はしにくいかもしれない。しかし、「に」が圧倒的に優勢を示す傾向は否定できず、その点に留意して指導に当たることも必要だと思われる

tl;dr : basically, it is pretty safe to stick to に here
 
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Hello Morphling さん,

Thanks again for your post. It's a pleasure to meet other people who take a philosophical and playful interest in languages.

The level I'm at, I need to translate your posting step by step, looking up every word. (Which is great for training.) So allow me to translate first, and then to address the language hair splitting (which is the more interesting part) in a separate posting.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daijirin
That's cool to know of. I take it, this dictionary is a Japanese-Japanese dictionary (i.e. one in which no English is used), correct?

You've published that you're located in Australia, that's cool. I suspect that you may be a Japanese native speaker ?

---
> The only real difference is 動作 の 及ぶ 方向 vs 動作 の 向けられる 方向.
> Action affect vs action facing a certain direction. Really no diff in practice.
> I have a feeling author just wanted to say the same thing 2 different ways.

I'm not sure how you mean "Action affect". The word "affect" is hard to understand in this context. What is your intended meaning with the word "affect"?

方向 (ほうこう) = direction
及ぶ (およぶ) = to reach

My first thought was to translate 「及ぶ 方向」 as "the final direction", and to translate 「動作 の 及ぶ 方向」 as "the final direction of an action". Leaving me with:

「動作 の 及ぶ 方向」 = the final direction of an action
「動作 の 向けられる 方向」 = the direction that an action can point towards

which indeed as you say definitely gives the impression of being hugely extremely similar in meaning. Your hypothesis that the author just liked to formulate the same thing in two different ways sounds sensible to me.

---
> に has the definition of 帰着点 や 動作 の 及ぶ 方向 を 表す。
>
> へ has 2 definitions.
> 動作・作用 の 向けられる 方向 を 示す
> 動作・作用 の 帰着点 を 示す

I don't find the entire combination 「帰着点」 in a dictionary.
I'd guess that 帰着点 would be read as 「きちゃくてん」.
And (with the help of brief googling to check other examples of it used) I take it to mean "conclusion". Or in this case maybe better, "destination".

Obviously, 「帰着点 や」 is a modifier to the noun 「動作」, and here seems to be used to limit (narrow down) which *kind* of action is meant.
So 「帰着点 や 動作」 would mean "actions of the concluding or destination type". I suspect that the author is generally classifying actions (movement verbs) into various kinds, such as on the one side actions that just stay in one place and go on continuously, and on the other hand actions "of the concluding or destination type" (such as "to go somewhere"), which have a direction and a definite begin and end. Would that be the right interpretation?

So I would translate as follows:

に expresses the final direction of actions (or movement) that are of the concluding or destination type.

へ has 2 definitions:
Shows the direction that an action or movement can point towards;
Shows the destination of an action or movement.

---
With best regards,
Menno ( メンノー )
 
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メンノーさん、what I was trying to say is in practice the 2 have little difference but indeed on a subconscious level there is some difference between the two in nuance but it is very subtle and if you are a beginner it probably doesn't matter as much.

When expressing direction of an action, both に and へ are interchangeable. However nuance wise they are subtly different.

Basically に has a more closeness feel and へ feels more distant.

学校に行く and 学校へ行く both mean go to school but the former implies you go to school and study/work there where as the latter merely expresses the fact you are moving towards direction of school but not necessarily study there or have anything to do with the school.

Subsequently people tend to use へ when expressing action affecting someone with higher status and に to family and friends. This is not a hard fast rule though. Merely an observation. There is a study done on this.

When expressing 佐藤さんは田中さん へ・に プレゼントをあげた。the overwhelming majority of native speakers chose に.

However when the study swapped these out with 生徒が校長先生 へ・に 花束を差し上げた。へ got the majority.

In both cases technically either is correct but subconsciously this is how the two are interpreted differently by a majority of Japanese speakers.

Again this is not a technical grammar thing but more reflect of society's perception and personal preference.
 

Toritoribe

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Basically に has a more closeness feel and へ feels more distant.

学校に行く and 学校へ行く both mean go to school but the former implies you go to school and study/work there where as the latter merely expresses the fact you are moving towards direction of school but not necessarily study there or have anything to do with the school.

Subsequently people tend to use へ when expressing action affecting someone with higher status and に to family and friends. This is not a hard fast rule though. Merely an observation. There is a study done on this.

When expressing 佐藤さんは田中さん へ・に プレゼントをあげた。the overwhelming majority of native speakers chose に.

However when the study swapped these out with 生徒が校長先生 へ・に 花束を差し上げた。へ got the majority.

In both cases technically either is correct but subconsciously this is how the two are interpreted differently by a majority of Japanese speakers.
Just out of curiosity, do you have any sources?
 
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