Arising from the medulla oblongata immediately behind the pons varolii in company with the eighth.

From this point it is directed outward, and, with the eighth nerve, enters at once the internal auditory meatus. Then it passes into the aqueduct of Fallopius, and gives off the chorda tympani nerve to join the lingual, and soon emerges from the stylo-mastoid foramen of the petrous temporal bone. Here it gains the under surface of the parotid gland,, from which it reaches the face by passing between the gland and the inferior maxilla below its condyle. It blends with the fibres of the sensory subzygomatic branch of the inferior maxillary division of the fifth nerve and forms a plexus (pes anserinus) on the outer side of the masseter muscle.

This nerve supplies the ear and muscles about the poll, the upper belly of the digastricus, the guttural pouch and parotid gland, the stylo-maxillaris, the corrugator supercilii, the orbicularis palpebrarum, the levator labii superioris alaeque nasi, and cervical panniculus, and gives its ultimate fibres to the cheeks, nostrils, and lips. A branch from this nerve joins the infra-orbital nerve, and is distributed to the upper lip.