Useful English Phrases for Giving Directions

If you're in a new town or city and you want to know where a place or building is, these are useful phrases for asking for directions. There are also phrases for giving directions to other people who ask you for help.

How you can ask for directions

Say "Excuse me" before you ask a person. To make it sound like a question, make your voice go up on "me".

"Excuse me. How do I get to (the railway station) please?"

"Excuse me. Where's the nearest (post office) please?"

"Excuse me. I'm looking for the Number 6 bus stop."

Giving directions

The person who helps you often says how near or far the place is:

"It's about five minutes from here."
"It's about a ten-minute walk."
"It's easier if I can show you on the map…"

Specific instructions

Here are some useful words and phrases for giving directions on the street. Maybe you're helping a driver, or someone who stops you to ask for directions.

"Turn left / right."

"Go straight on at the lights / when you come to the crossroads." (Lights = traffic lights; crossroads = where two roads cross)

"Go across the roundabout." (Roundabout = where all the cars go round a circle in the middle of the road)

"Take the first turning / road / street on your left / right." (Turning = road that goes left or right)

"You'll see / You'll come to a (bank). Then …"

"Don't take the first road."

"Go on for about (2 minutes / 100 metres)."

Landmarks

We often make reference to landmarks when we give directions to help the other person. These can be places in a town, such as cinema, bank, bus stop, etc. They can also be parts of the road system. Here are some common terms:

taxi rank = a place where taxis queue for passengers

level crossing = where the road and railway meet. There are barriers that go up and down to signal when a train is coming

underpass = a walkway that goes under a busy road so pedestrians can get to the other side safely

overpass / flyover = a road that goes over another road (or railway)

zebra crossing = black and white markings in the road for pedestrians to cross the road (the markings look like a zebra's stripes)

pedestrian crossing = a place in the road where pedestrians can cross. Often there are traffic lights.

tunnel = a road under (or through) mountains

crossroads = where two roads cross each other

junction = where one road meets another, and you can either go left or right

fork in the road = where the road divides, and you decide to go left or right

turning = a road off to your left or right

main road = a big road where there is lots of traffic

lane = a small road, or a part of a road (the left-hand lane / the right-hand lane; the bus lane)

Use prepositions of direction

Go past = continue past something so that is is now behind you

Go across = cross something, like a road or crossroads

Go along = continue down a road

Go straight on = don't turn left or right

Go up = walk / drive up a hill

Go down = walk or drive down a hill or a road

Go through = pass through something, such as a tunnel or a town

Go out of = exit (i.e. a railway station)

It's in front of you = you can see it facing you

It's opposite the bank = it faces the bank

It's on the corner = it's where two roads meet at a 90° angle

Typical English conversation

"Excuse me. I'm looking for the post office."

"OK. Go straight on, then turn left at the crossroads. It's about 100 metres on your left.
You can't miss it!"

"Thanks!"

"You're welcome."

(Also see our page Asking for directions in English.)

Asking for Directions Quiz

Level: Elementary and above

1. Excuse me! Where can I __
2. Excuse me! How can I __
3. Excuse me! How __ I get to the centre of town?
4. Excuse me! Is this the __ way for the railway station?
5. Excuse me! __ where the town museum is, please?
6. Excuse me! __ for the swimming pool.
7. Excuse me! Is there a bank __
8. Excuse me! Where's the __ post office, please?
9. Excuse me! Do you know __
10. Excuse me! Could you __ me directions for the motorway?

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