Asking for And Giving Directions in English – So Trivial Yet Essential!

By Robby

If you are new here please read this first.

Here’s how to improve your spoken English when reading this article: read it out loud, then read out loud the collocations highlighted in red 10 times each to memorize them, then look away from the monitor and try and say 3 sample sentences for each of those collocations! For best results record your speech so that you can go back, spot any mistakes you might have made, and then do some more spoken English practice by correcting yourself!

Asking for and giving directions in English

Asking for directions in English when you’re not sure where a particular object is located while travelling or helping out some stranger who stops you in a passing-by car and asks for directions to some spot – these could be called textbook English scenarios.

Meaning – directions is one of the basics that you’d have to learn as a beginner English student, right?

That being said, I have to admit that not every advanced English speaker’s phraseology is up to scratch when it comes to these relatively simple English phrases.

The heck, recently even I used to get a bit stuck sometimes when asking for directions or when I had to give someone directions in English, and it’s only when I started coaching other foreign English speakers on Fluency Star that I compiled a list of relevant phrases and also cleared up the whole thing once and for all for myself.

So, would you like to tap into Robby’s personal knowledgebase?

Then what are you waiting for!

Just keep reading and you’ll find the most relevant direction asking and giving English phraseology – just make sure you actually memorize those phrases by way of speaking out loud multiple times and then repeating them over the course of a few days to make sure these speech patterns get imprinted into your brain and most importantly – your mouth muscles!

And by the way – don’t forget that you would also sometimes have to describe directions when talking about past events and telling stories, so these sorts of situations aren’t just limited to giving and asking for directions specifically!

Asking for Directions

Asking for and giving directions in English

Excuse me, would you be able to tell me how…? – at first this may sound like a very sophisticated phrase, however, once you’ve gotten used to addressing people this way, it’s going to become your second nature! I personally think that this is a really nice way of politely addressing a stranger, for example, and it sounds way better that just “Excuse me, I’m looking for…” or something similar.

Could you tell me how to get to…? – this is exactly how you’d pose a question to a stranger, for example, when trying to figure out how to get to a specific location: “Excuse me, could you tell me how to get to the Fifth Avenue please?”

Could you tell me where the nearest… is? – this type of question will come in handy in situations when you’re not aware of the whereabouts of the place you’re looking for: “Could you tell me where the nearest gas station is, please?”

I’m a bit lost… – in case you’re lost in a town or a city district you haven’t been before, you can admit to it by using this simple phrase: “Sorry, would you be able to tell me how to get to the Main Street? I’m a bit lost…”

Heading the right direction – this is a very handy phrase you can use when both asking and giving directions; this is basically how you describe the concept of being on the right path to the destination. “Excuse me, I’m trying to find the Parliament building, would you be able to tell me if I’m heading the right direction please?”

Giving Directions

Asking for and giving directions in English

Just around the corner! – if the place someone’s looking for is literally just around the corner, the simplest way of describing its whereabouts is using this phrase: “Sorry, could you tell me where the nearest grocery store is?” – “Grocery store? It’s just around the corner!”

Just across the street from… – just like I told you in the beginning of this article, sometimes even advanced English speakers struggle to verbalize fairly simple concepts, and describing a location across the street actually used to be one of those weak points for me back in the day – especially because I didn’t realize that I also had to use the word “from” at the end of this particular phrase. Now if I have to describe the concept of something being located across the street, I won’t hesitate for a moment before opening my mouth and saying – “Jane? Didn’t you know that she lives just across the street from the school?

Across the road from – this is just a variation of the previous phrase; the structure of the expression remains the same except you’re describing a location that’s situated across a road as opposed to a street – “The business park you’re looking for is across the road from the mall.”

Keep walking straight for… blocks – this phrase will definitely come in handy when describing a route leading down the street for a specific number of blocks: “Just keep walking straight for 4 blocks, and you’re going to see the subway station on your left hand side!”

On your right hand side – again, even though this sentence may sound super simple, it’s worth repeating and memorizing this phrase as a typical way of describing sides. I’m going to repeat myself again – sometimes it’s describing the simplest concepts that presents the biggest difficulties for us – foreign English speakers!

On the right hand side of the street – this is a slight variation of the previous phrase; in this instance you’re being specific about the right hand side of the street as opposed to one’s right hand side in general: “When you reach the opera house you’ll notice a nice little park with a pond on the right hand side of the street – that’s when you should cross over to the other side.”

Look to the right OR look to your right – another very simple expression worth memorizing! Oftentimes I’ve noticed foreign English speakers hesitating and getting stuck for words for a moment when describing this simple concept, so repeat and remember this phrase: “Look to THE right!”

Turn left at… OR take a left turn at… – the devil is in the detail, as they say, so if you’re trying to describe the concept of turning to either left or right, chances are – you’re going to hesitate ever so slightly because you may be getting different ways of describing this concept popping up in your head – “…turn to the left at…”, “…turn at the left..” and so on. So memorize this simple word combination once and for all, and next time someone asks you how to get to the post office, you can confidently tell them without a moment’s hesitation – “Post office? Just keep walking straight for 2 blocks, then turn left at the corner and you gonna see the post office across the street from there!”

It’s only a few minutes away from here – if the person asking you for directions is worried that the destination is too far away, this is the typical phrase to use: “Don’t worry, it’s only a few minutes away from here!”

Within a walking distance – you can use this phrase to explain that the place is not too far away from here and there’s no need to be looking for public transport to get there: “A bus? Well, I think there’s no need for it, the shop you’re looking for is within a walking distance from here!

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Obviously, these phrases just barely scratch the surface when it comes to all the different means of expressions you can use when giving and asking for directions.

This is a good start however, so once you’ve built a solid foundation, keep looking up new related phraseology and make it part of your active vocabulary!


P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!

P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System

P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System
  • No problem Eduardo, you’re welcome! 😉

  • Eduardo

    Thank you Robin.