How to Give Directions in English

Learn the words and phrases you need to respond when someone asks you for directions in English.

Start learning for free

I want to learn...

By Barney Meekin · March 14, 2024 · 8 minute read

Giving directions in English is an essential skill. Whether you want to help a tourist sightsee around your hometown or a colleague find the meeting room, you need to give clear and accurate directions.

Read on to learn the essential words, phrases and techniques for giving directions in English. We’ll also show you some real-life conversation examples to help you master this skill.

Essential vocabulary and phrases

When giving (and receiving) directions, you'll use basic direction words, prepositions of place, the names of landmarks, and phrases for giving distances.

Here are the words and phrases that will help you master giving directions in English. (We’ll just provide this word list for now, but at the end of this article you’ll see how all of the phrases come together in natural conversation).

Basic direction words

Use these words to show the general path or direction to follow:

  • Left
  • Right
  • Straight
  • Turn

Prepositions of place

Prepositions describe the location or position of something. Here are some useful ones for giving directions:

  • On
  • At
  • Next to
  • Between
  • Across from
  • In front of
  • Behind
  • Near
  • Opposite
  • Over
  • Along
  • Through
  • Past

Landmarks and points of reference

A fantastic way to make your directions understandable is to mention landmarks or points of reference. Here are some examples:

  • Traffic lights
  • Bus stops
  • Parks
  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Churches
  • Shopping centers
  • Restaurants
  • Gas stations
  • Banks
  • Monuments
  • Bridges
  • Street names

Phrases for giving distances

A good idea is to give people an idea of how far away something is or how long it takes to get there. Here are some ways to do that:

  • It's about 100 meters away.
  • It's two blocks from here.
  • It's a mile (or kilometer) down the road.
  • It's a five-minute walk from here.
  • It's just around the corner.

Useful verbs for giving directions

Finally, don’t forget you need verbs in your sentences. Here are some of the most common verbs for giving directions:

  • Go straight for two blocks.
  • Walk past the post office.
  • Take the first left.
  • Follow this road until you reach the park.
  • Cross the bridge and turn right.
  • Pass the gas station, and you'll see the restaurant on your right.
  • Continue along this path for a few minutes.
  • Turn right at the traffic light.
  • Head north on Main Street.
  • Keep going until you see the sign for the airport.

Ready to unlock hundreds of English lessons?

Busuu offers free English courses and a lively community of millions of language learners. You can practice with native speakers, learn vocabulary and grammar, and develop your English skills.

Level up your English directions

After you’ve figured out the basics, you can add these more advanced words and phrases to your directions.

Use cardinal directions

Use ‘north,’ ‘south,’ ‘east’ and ‘west’ to make your directions extra clear.

Examples:

  • Walk north on Main Street for two blocks, then turn east on First Avenue.
  • The museum is on the south side of the park, just west of the fountain.
  • From the hotel, drive south on Main Street for about a kilometer, and then turn west onto Kings Road.
  • If you're coming from the east, you'll see the shopping center on your left, just before the intersection.

Include public transportation routes and schedules

When helping people find their way on public transportation, you need to add information about routes, stops and transfers.

Examples:

  • Take the northbound Green Line train and get off at Central Station.
  • Take the number 288 bus heading east towards Downtown. It departs from platform C every 15 minutes.
  • From the airport, take the Airport Express Line to Central Railway Station. The train leaves every 20 minutes.
  • To get to the museum, take the subway to Elmwood Park, then transfer to the number 42 bus. The bus stops right in front of the museum.

Give directions to drivers and cyclists

The examples below feature some words and phrases you can use to help drivers and cyclists.

Example phrases to help drivers:

  • Take the second exit on the roundabout and merge onto Highway 101 heading south.
  • At the traffic light, make a U-turn and then turn right straight away.
  • Follow the signs for the city center. You need to be in the middle lane as you approach the tunnel.
  • As you approach the intersection, get into the far right lane. Turn right at the light, then immediately merge left, because the right lane becomes a right-turn-only lane.

Example phrases to help cyclists:

  • Follow the bike lane along the river for approximately 2 kilometers.
  • Turn left at the end of the bike path, then follow the signs for the lake.

Help people in rural areas

Giving directions in the countryside is trickier because there are fewer landmarks to reference. Instead, use natural landmarks and features to guide people.

Examples:

  • Go along the dirt road until you see a farm on your left. Turn right just past the farm and walk for another 10 minutes or so.
  • Follow the hiking trail upstream along the river for about a mile. You'll see the waterfall on your right.
  • Drive past the pond and keep going straight until you see a large country house. Turn left after the house onto the gravel road.
  • Once you cross the bridge, you'll see a fork in the trail. Take the right path through the forest. The campground is at the end of this path.

Four real-world examples

Let’s see how all the words and phrases fit together in natural conversations.

1. Giving directions to a nearby restaurant

Tourist: Excuse me, I'm looking for a good Italian restaurant nearby. Can you help me?

Local: Sure! There's a great Italian place just a few minutes from here. Walk straight down this road for about 200 meters. You'll see a traffic light. Turn left there. The restaurant will be on your right, next to the bank. It's called ‘Pasta Bella.’

Tourist: Perfect, thanks so much! Just to clarify, I turn left at the traffic light, and it's on the right side of the street?

Local: Yep, that's right. You can't miss it!

2. Guiding someone to a famous landmark

Visitor: Hi there, I'm trying to find my way to the Statue of Liberty. Could you give me directions?

New Yorker: Of course! First, you need to take the subway to South Ferry Station. When you exit the station, follow the signs to the ferry terminal. It's not far away.

Visitor: Okay, got it. And the ferry goes to the statue?

New Yorker: Yes, the ferry goes straight to Liberty Island. You'll get a great view of the statue from the ferry.

Visitor: Awesome, I really appreciate your help!

3. Helping a stranger find their way back to their hotel

Tourist: I'm so sorry to bother you, but I think I'm lost. I'm trying to get back to my hotel, but I can't remember the way.

Local: No worries. What's the name of your hotel?

Tourist: It's the Grandview Hotel. I remember it was on a street with a lot of shops.

Local: Ah, I know where that is. You're not too far away. Head north on King’s Road – that's the street we're on right now. After a few blocks, turn right onto Market Street. Keep walking along Market Street, and you'll see the hotel on your left. I think it’s just after the shopping mall.

Tourist: Thank you so much! That's really helpful. Just to make sure I've got it right – I walk straight up King’s Road, turn right on Market Street, and the hotel will be on my left after the mall?

Local: Exactly! It's about a 10-minute walk from here.

Tourist: I think I've got it now. Thanks again.

4. Providing directions to a public transportation hub

Student: Hi, excuse me. I need to get to the central train station, but I'm not sure which bus to take. Could you help me out?

Commuter: Sure. The easiest way is by taking bus number 12. The bus stop’s just across the street.

Student: Great, thanks! And do I need to transfer or anything, or will the bus take me directly to the station?

Commuter: Nope, no need to transfer. Just stay on the bus until you reach City Square. When you get off, the train station will be right in front of you.

Student: Perfect, that sounds easy enough. Thanks for your help.

Make your English directions as clear as possible

Giving good directions in English is all about being clear and easy to understand. To really master this skill, you need to practice. So get out there and start giving directions! Combine the words from this guide with your knowledge of your area and its landmarks, and you’ll be giving directions like a pro in no time.

Master English with Busuu

With Busuu, you're just a few swipes away from millions of native English speakers to interact with. Join our community, complete free English courses, and develop your English skills. All on your mobile device.