# Why “откуда” is used instead of “где”

When asking someone where they live, why is "Куда" used in the question instead of "Где"?

As in why "Откуда вы?" instead of, say, "Вы от где?"

Also, where else can you use "откуда" instead of "где"?

• Will you give an example, a sentence. A cannot imagine what you are talking about. – Yellow Sky Jan 14 '13 at 6:45
• Unless you will not edit the question to make it more clear, it looks like you are just wrong. The standard question is "Где ты живёшь/вы живёте". – shabunc Jan 14 '13 at 7:26
• Sorry, I actually couldn't remember the construction, but somehow remembered that when you ask someone where they're from, you don't use куда, but где. If any of you know what I'm referring to, please enlighten me. If I'm just way off, let me know so I can delete the question. – chubbycantorset Jan 14 '13 at 7:40
• If you ask someone where they're from, you say 'Откуда вы?', 'откуда' being the exact counterpart of 'where from'. – Yellow Sky Jan 14 '13 at 7:44
• The point is, that, like in English, this phrase is rather eliptical. 'Откуда вы?' is short for 'Откуда вы приехали?' or 'Откуда вы родом?' and implies direction from a place, hence the use of 'oткуда' having a directional component, 'куда'. – Yellow Sky Jan 14 '13 at 8:23

In English the word where has two meanings: place and direction.

• Where are you? - place
• Where are you going? - direction

In Russian there are two separate words for these meanings: где for place and куда for direction.

• Где вы?

• Куда вы идёте?

The reason that "Where are you from?" is translated as "Откуда вы?" is that there is an implied direction:

Where did you come from?

Откуда вы приехали?

• Let's also note semi-obsoleted "whither" 'куда' and "whence" 'откуда'. – Netch Jan 17 '13 at 7:56

Let me try :)

I would suggest to understand the difference this way:

• "Где" - just "where".
• "Куда" - could be interpreted closely to "where to". I assume that using this word you imply some place like destination.

Examples:

Куда ты идёшь? Where to are you going? (Where are you going to?)
Где ты идёшь? Where are you going at the moment (imagine a situation when you are talking on the phone and your friend asks you where are you)

Correct me if I am wrong.

Compared to English, Russian is much more pedantic about distinguishing direction and location, e.g., "from" might be из and от (or other possibilities) since word choice distinguishes between "from the inside" and "from the surface" while in English both are expressed with "from". Or just look at the Russian verbs of motion.

In the case of "where", there are three words, not two:

где = where, as in location (e.g., where am I?)

куда = to where, as in direction (e.g., where are you going = where are you going to = to where are you going?),

откуда = from where, as in direction (e.g., where are you coming from? or where are you from?)

Notice that in English, "where are you going to" is usually expressed as "where are you going", but in Russian the distinction between location and direction is not glossed over.

By the way, although откуда obviously arose historically as от+куда, but you shouldn't regard откуда as being some form of the word кудa. So the way you posed your question (not the heading, but the actual question) is awkward: when asking someone where they live, you don't use куда instead of где, but rather откуда instead of где.

"Откуда?" means "where from?" and "where?" means "где?".

For example

Где моя книга? - Where is my book?
Откуда вы? - Where are you from?

1. Где ты это узнал?
2. Откуда ты это узнал?

These questions seem to be identical, but the answers may be different.

• I have heard it at the market.
• I have read it at the university.
• I heard it from John; he told me about it at the market.
• I read it in the tutorial at the university library.
• You might want to elaborate as to specifics of the subtle semantic differences you are trying to get at. I kind of see something there, but it is unclear. – theUg Feb 26 '13 at 8:54

You can use the both:

Где вы живёте?

Откуда вы приехали?

• I don't see how this answers the question. – Aleks G Feb 27 '13 at 9:33

I am quite confident Russian "откуда" may be translated into English as "why" in expressions as "откуда вы знаете", " Откуда вы решили, что..." which are widely used in a discussion to induce a sense of the incompetence of an opponent. Just to mention of that for it is not an answer corresponding to the question.

• While this may be so, it's important to note that откуда usually means where from. Translation why is secondary and is used much less often. – Aleks G Feb 19 '13 at 7:01