How to Give Directions
You know how to ASK for directions, but what happens when an English speaker asks YOU for directions. This is not a time for small talk. Give only basic directions with short phrases. Do the best you can.
Questions you may hear
How do I get to Main Street?
Where is the closest gas station?
Can you tell me where the community centre is?
I’m looking for Jane Street.
Are you from around here?
If you know the way…
Use basic English to offer directions. Short phrases are best. Speak slowly and use very careful pronunciation. Spell out a word if necessary.
The easiest way is to…
The quickest way is to…
The best way is to…
go + direction (right, left, down, up, through)
take + road name
turn + right/left
stay on + road name for + distance or time
The easiest way is to go right on Commercial Avenue.
The quickest way is to take Road Number 1.
The best way is to turn right on Main Street.
Stay on Route 1 for about ten minutes.
Separate each leg of the route with a transition.
when you get to…go…
Offer “Ballpark Figures” (rough estimates of time or length of travel)
Some people feel better knowing how long it will take to get from A to B.
It’s just around the corner (not far).
It’s not far.
It’s a bit of a way. (it takes a while)
It’s about a five minute walk.
It’s about a twenty minute bus ride.
Tell the person what to watch for.
You will see a large clock on the right.
You will pass a gas station.
It’s across from the blue church.
More useful language
It’s on + street name
It’s across from
It’s around the corner from
Stay in the right lane.
It’s a very busy road.
It’s a big hill. (if they are walking or on a bike)
There might be construction.
If you pass the … you went too far.
There’s no parking.
If YOU repeat the directions again, the other person will feel more confident. Repeat important details including street names and turns. You can also ask the other person to repeat the directions back to you.
If you are in the car with the driver…
Give a lot of warning.
Turn right at the next street
Get in the left lane.
Go one more block. Then turn right.
At the next traffic lights turn…
It’s going to be on your right.
Make sure that the other person understood your directions. Say: “Did you get all that?”
If you don’t know the way…
Don’t guess! Don’t just shake your head and walk away. Use one of these phrases:
I’m sorry, I’m not from here.
I’m afraid I can’t help you.
Sorry I don’t know my way around here.
Offer another solution
You could ask the bus driver.
Ask the front desk clerk.
Follow me. I’ll show you the way.
Do you want me to draw you a map?
“Read the directions and directly you will be directed in the right direction.”
(Alice in Wonderland)
Tara Benwell is a Canadian freelance writer and editor who specializes in materials and articles for the ELT industry.