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How to Ask for and Understand Directions in French

7 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of French Words and Phrases for Traveling

Exploring French-speaking countries can be quite an adventure, but you need to know how to ask for directions in French and to understand what you're told. After all, if you don't understand the directions, you might miss the very things you hoped to see.

The first thing you need is to know how to ask for directions. To get help, you can say Est-ce que je peux vous demander mon chemin? (May I ask you for directions?); or Pouvez-vous me dire où ça se trouve? (Can you tell me where that is?). If you're really having a hard time finding a place, you might ask the person to show you where to go by saying Pouvez-vous me montrer où ça se trouve? (Can you show me where that is?)

When someone in a French-speaking country shows you where to go, they will often say Le/la voilà (Here/there it is) when you find the place.

The following words can be used when asking for or receiving directions in French-speaking countries.

nord (north)
sud (south)
ouest (west)
est (east)
tournez à droite (turn right)
tournez à gauche (turn left)
tout droit (straight)
à droite (on the right)
à gauche (on the left)
une carte (map)
au coin de (at the corner of)
centre (center)
derrière (in back of)
devant (in front of)
la prochaine rue (the next street)
là-bas (over there)
le centre-ville (downtown)
rue [f] (street
à côté de (next to)

Here's some typical dialogue that shows how to ask for and give directions in French:

Julie: Où est l’hôtel? (Where is the hotel?)
Jean Paul: L’hôtel est à côté de la gare. (The hotel is next to the train station.)
Julie: Dans quelle rue se trouve le cinéma? (What street is the movie theater on?)
Jean Paul: Le cinéma est à votre droite. (The movie theater is on your right.)
Julie: Est-ce que l’école est loin d’ici? (Is the school far from here?)
Jean Paul: L’école est au centre de la ville. Allez tout droit et vous le trouverez. (The school is in the center of town. Go straight and you’ll find it.)
Julie: Comment est-ce que je vais au musée? (How do I get to the museum?)
Jean Paul: Le musée est à peu près un kilomètre et demi d’ici. (The museum is about 1 kilometer and a half from here.)
Julie: Où est la banque la plus proche? (Where is the nearest bank?)
Jean Paul: Tournez à droite et c’est la première rue à votre gauche. (Turn right, and it’s the first street on your left.)
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The Essentials of French Words and Phrases for Traveling

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