How to give and understand directions
in English

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Giving Directions on the Street in English

In today’s world, full of technology, GPS, and digital maps, everything seems easier. Wherever we may find ourselves in the world at any moment of the day, we can activate our devices to find the correct address. Those times when you would assess the passers-by with the hope of identifying the right person to ask for directions. seem to be almost forgotten. That person who looked as if they knew everything about the area, a local resident who gave off an air of reliability and availability was the one you were looking for.

Are those times over? The answer is no. Even today, we can often find ourselves lost in an unknown city asking for directions. It is also increasingly common for tourists to stop us on the street because they are looking for a restaurant or archaeological site. After all, it is possible for your phone to stop working or for the battery to run out earlier than expected. Then there are those who prefer to talk to passers-by, partly because they do not like technology and partly because they prefer human contact. For those that want to learn English, asking for and giving directions is an excellent way to practice the language.

To give or receive directions correctly, however, it is very important to understand what we are being told and what to say in response. Otherwise, we can risk sending an unfortunate tourist one kilometre to the west when they were looking for a pub that is twenty metres to the east. That is why we have decided to offer you this small guide so that you can become an experienced “road sign” and can understand any instruction given by others in English.

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How to Ask for Directions on the Street

You are in Trafalgar Square and have just visited the National Gallery. How will you get to your next monument on foot? And if you found yourself under the hot Miami sun and could not find your way to the nearest beach?

Greetings

First and foremost, after having identified your guide, you should be friendly and greet them in a pleasant way.

Excuse me.

Excuse me, madam / sir.

Hello, I am lost. Could you help me, please?

Directions to a Specific Place

Once you have greeted the other person, you can ask them for what you need. Try these phrases.

I’m lost. Can you help me?

Where can I find the main street, please?

What is the best way to the post office?

How do I get to the beach from here?

How to Get to the Metro Station

Where is the nearest tube station? (in London)

Where is the nearest subway station? (in the US)

Directions at the Bus Stop

Does the number 33 bus stop outside the train station?

How often does the airport bus pass?

At which stop do I need to get off to reach the science museum?

How to Give Directions on the Street

Turn left / right.
Make a left / right.

Take a left / right.

Go straight. // Carry straight on. // Continue straight ahead.

Go north / south / east / west. // Head north / south / east / west.

Walk down this avenue.

Walk up to the next junction.

It’s around the corner.

It’s across the street. // It’s on the other side of the street.

It’s two blocks away.

It’s too far to walk.

You need to take a taxi or catch the bus.

You should go by metro.

In the Car

Follow the signs to the airport.

It’s well signposted.

Take Exit 55.

It’s a five-minute drive.

It’s about a mile away.

It’s about a kilometer away.

Turn around.

You’re going the wrong way!

Make a U-turn.

With a map

Could you show me on the map how to get to the British Museum from here, please?

This useful selection of phrases is part of the materials for the classes offered by the Teachers at ABA English. Currently, ABA English has a record 17 million students. Why don’t you try it as well? We offer 144 free video classes and the same number of short films, in addition to the classes offered by our teachers on our Facebook page..

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Question words to give or ask for directions in English

Besides the previously mentioned examples, here are a list of the question words most commonly used to ask for directions in English, with examples that can be very useful: 

Question word

Function

Examples

What

Request information about something

What direction should I take?

Ask for confirmation or repetition

What? Sorry, I don’t understand you. What are you saying?

When

Ask about the time

When should I take that turn? After the first or second light?

Where

Ask about the place

Where is the library located?

Which

Ask about a decision

Can you please tell me which roundabout is the right one if I want to go to the supermarket?

Who

Ask for the subject of the phrase

Who can help me find my way back to the hotel please?

How

Ask how to do something

How can I get to the beach quickly?

Besides the previously mentioned examples, here are a list of the question words most commonly used to ask for directions in English, with examples that can be very useful:

What

Function

Example

 

Request information about something

What direction should I take?

 

Ask for confirmation or repetition

What? Sorry, I don’t understand you. ¿What are you saying?

When

Function

Example

 

Ask about the time

When should I take that turn? After the first or second light?

Where

Function

Example

 

Ask about the place

Where is the library located?

 

Which

Function

Example

 

Ask about a decision

Can you please tell me which roundabout is the right one if I want to go to the supermarket?

Who

Function

Example

 

Ask for the subject of the phrase

Who can help me find my way back to the hotel please?

How

Function

Example

 

Ask how to do something

How can I get to the beach fast?

Exercises to Practice Directions in English

Here we’ll give you some practical exercises that will help you integrate the use of these expressions in English. These will surely help you in the future.

A. Connect the first part of the sentence to ts continuation so it has a meaning

a. Excuse me

1. Does the next bus arrive?

b. Right there, you will

2. You will find many taxis.

c. To take the subway,

3. You need to take the next turn

d. What time

4. Can you show me the way to the station?

e. Next to the shopping center,

5. Find a crossroad

f. I think I’m lost, 

6. It’s just a few minutes away.

g. You don’t need to take the bus, 

7. I probably misunderstood the guide’s directions.

Answers: a.4, b.5, c.3, d.1, e.2, f.7, g.6 

B. Fill in the blanks with the following words. There may be multiple possible answers.

Carry straight on / Go north / Around the corner / Junction / Too far to walk / Make a right / Walking down that avenue / Make a left / Two blocks left / Continue straight ahead

Hello, I think it’s _________, here’s what I would do. From the supermarket you _______ until you find the post station, where you have to ________ and keep _____________. You will find the library, and you have to __________ towards the next ______. There, you are going to see the subway sign. You should exit at the next stop, and then you need to _________ and ____________ up until the end of the street. There, you will only have ____________, you are going to see a pharmacy, and it’s going to be just __________. 

Answers: too far to walk, carry straight on, make a left, walking down that avenue, make a right, junction, go north, continue straight ahead, two blocks left, around the corner