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."
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..."
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)."
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!"
(Also see our page Asking for directions in English.)
Asking for Directions Quiz
Level: Elementary and above
- We say ''where can I find ...'' to ask for directions.
- Or you can say ''how can I get to ...''
- You can also ask ''How do I get...'' (but not ''how will I get...'')
- When you aren't sure about where you are going you can ask ''Is this the right way for...?''
- Remember: ''Can you tell me?'' or ''Could you tell me?'' (and not ''Can / Could you say me?''
- Use the present continuous ''I'm looking for'' and not the present simple ''I look for''.
- You can ask ''Is there (a bank) near here / around here / in the area?'' (but not ''right here''.)
- Remember to use the superlative form, rather than the comparative form. You can say ''Where's the nearest / closest / most convenient'' etc.
- Remember: if you use an indirect question (''do you know where...''), the word order of the question changes. It's ''do you know where (something) is'', not ''do you know where is (something''.
- We ''give'' someone directions.