Asking Directions

Asking for directions is important, but it's also easy to become confused when listening to someone giving directions. This is true even in your own native language, so you can imagine how important it is to pay careful attention when listening to someone provide directions in English! Here are a few suggestions and tips to help you remember the directions as someone gives them to you.

  • Make sure to ask the person giving directions to repeat and / or slow down.
  • In order to help out, repeat each direction the person gives. This will help both you remember the names of streets, turns, etc., as well as help the person giving directions provide clear instructions.
  • Make visual notes while the person describes the route.
  • Once the person has given you directions, repeat the entire set of directions again. Here's an example:
  • Take 2nd right
    Go 300 yards
    Take 1st left at the stop sign
    Go 100 yards the shop is on your left.

Here is a short dialogue A number of questions are asked during this short scene. You may notice that some of these questions are not asked using the standard question form (i.e., Where do I go?), but that polite forms are used (indirect questions, i.e., I wonder if you can help me.). These questions are often longer and are used in order to be polite. The meaning does not change, only the structure of the question (Where do you come from = Would you mind telling where you come from?).

Giving Directions

Bob: Excuse me, I'm afraid I can't find a bank. Do you know where one is?
Frank: Well, there are a few banks near here. Do you have a particular bank in mind?

Bob: I'm afraid I don't. I just need to withdraw some money from either a teller, or an ATM.
Frank: OK, that's easy.

Bob: I'm going by car.

Frank: Well, in that case, go straight ahead on this street until the third traffic light. Take a left there, and continue on until you come to a stop sign.

Bob: Do you know what the name of the street is?
Frank: Yes, I think it's Jennings Lane. Now, when you come to the stop sign, take the street on the left. You'll be on 8th Avenue.

Bob: OK, I go straight ahead on this street to the third traffic light. That's Jennings lane.
Frank: Yes, that's right.

Bob: Then I continue on to the stop sign and take a right on 8th Avenue.
Frank: No, take a left at the stop sign onto 8th Avenue.

Bob: Oh, thanks. What's next?
Frank: Well, continue on 8th Avenue for about 100 yards, past a supermarket until you come to another traffic light. Take a left and continue on for another 200 yards. You'll see the bank on the right.

Bob: Let me repeat that: I go about 100 yards, past a supermarket to the traffic light. I take a left and continue for another 200 yards. The bank is on the right.
Frank: Yes, that's it!

Bob: OK. Can I repeat this to see if I've understood everything?
Frank: Certainly.

Bob: Go straight ahead until the third traffic light. Take a left, and continue on to the stop sign. Turn left onto 8th Avenue.

Frank: Yes, that's right.

Bob: Go past the supermarket, to another traffic light, take the first left and I'll see the bank on the left.
Frank: Almost, you'll see the bank on the right, after 200 yards or so.

Bob: Well, thank you very much for taking the time to explain this to me!
Frank: Not at all. Enjoy your visit!

Bob: Thank you.