Ask for and Understand Directions in Chinese

If you’re going to a Chinese-speaking country, whether for travel or to live there for a longer period of time, it’s important to be able to ask for directions. In this article, you’ll learn some vocabulary and questions that you can use when you get lost. Of course, asking for directions in Chinese is the easy part. What’s harder is understanding the directions that people give you. Depending on your destination, the directions might be complicated and therefore the answer you get might also be lengthy. But fear not, this article will also help you learn the basics of understanding directions in Chinese as well.

Asking Directions in Chinese: 8 Sentence Patterns

Let’s start by learning how to ask for directions in Chinese. Below are some common question patterns and phrases to use when asking for directions.

1- Excuse me, may I ask you for directions?

Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Pinyin
不好意思,我可以向你问路吗? 不好意思,我可以向你問路嗎? Bù hǎoyìsi, wǒ kěyǐ xiàng nǐ wèn lù ma?

This is a polite way to approach someone for directions. The first part of the sentence “不好意思” (excuse me/sorry) can be used before other questions when asking directions as well to be more polite.

2- I’m lost.

Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Pinyin
我迷路了。 我迷路了。 Wǒ mílù le.


This is another phrase you might want to use when approaching someone for directions. If someone notices that you look lost and wants to help you out, they might also ask you, “Are you lost?” which is:

Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Pinyin
你迷路了吗? 你迷路了嗎? Nǐ mílù le ma?

3- Excuse me, where is _____?

Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Pinyin
请问 _____ 在哪里? 請問 _____ 在哪裡? Qǐngwèn _____ zài nǎlǐ?

You can use this question pattern to ask where any place is, by inserting the location you want to ask about into the sentence. For example, you could say: 请问博物馆在哪里?(Where is the museum?) Or: 请问和平路在哪里?(Where is Heping Road?) The first part of this sentence, “请问” can be used before anything that you’d like to ask to be more polite, as it means “excuse me” or “may I please ask.” The last part of the sentence “哪里” means “where” but some people, especially those from Beijing also say “哪儿” when asking where something is.

4- Do you know how to get to _____?

Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Pinyin
你知道怎么去 _____ 吗? 你知道怎麼去 _____ 嗎? Nǐ zhīdào zěnme qù _____ ma?


This question pattern is useful when asking for directions. Just insert your destination into the blank. For example: 你知道怎么去市政府吗?(Do you know how to get to city hall?) Or: 你知道怎么去港口吗?(Do you know how to get to the harbor?)

5- How do I get to _____?

Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Pinyin
_____ 怎么去? _____ 怎麼去? _____ zěnme qù?

This is another way to ask for directions in Chinese. You could ask something like: 火车站怎么去?(How do I get to the train station?) If you want to walk to a destination, you can also replace the 去 (go) in this sentence with 走 (walk). For example: 艺术馆怎么走? (How do I walk to the art gallery?)

6- Where is the nearest _____?

Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Pinyin
最近的 _____ 在哪里? 最近的 _____ 在哪裡? Zuìjìn de _____ zài nǎlǐ?

             
This is a useful pattern when you’re in an unfamiliar area and need to find some place quick for a specific purpose, like a convenience store or bank. Just like in the previous examples, you can replace “convenience store” in this question with whatever you are looking for. For example: 最近的便利商店在哪里?(Where is the nearest convenience store?) Or: 最近的医院在哪里?(Where is the nearest hospital?)

7- Is there a _____ nearby?

Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Pinyin
这里附近有 _____ 吗? 這裡附近有 _____ 嗎? Zhèlǐ fùjìn yǒu _____ ma?


If you’re not sure if there is something nearby and want to ask someone, you can use this question pattern. For example, you could ask: 这里附近有公共厕所吗?(Is there a public restroom nearby?) The word “附近” means “nearby” and is useful to know when it comes to directions. Another example using this sentence pattern might be: 这里附近有麦当劳吗?(Is there a McDonald’s nearby?)

8- How far is _____ from here?

Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Pinyin
_____ 离这里多远? _____ 離這裡多遠? _____ lí zhèlǐ duō yuǎn?


This question pattern will be helpful if you want to check how far away something is from where you are at that moment. Just fill in the blank with whatever location you’d like to inquire about. For example: 捷运站离这里多远?(How far is the subway station from here?)

Asking Directions in Chinese: Useful Places and Landmarks in Chinese

Below are some places and landmarks that you might want to insert into the question patterns above. You might also hear these when receiving directions.

English
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Pinyin
road 马路 馬路 mǎlù
street jiē
alley 巷子 巷子 xiàngzi
lane 巷弄 巷弄 xiàng nòng
intersection 路口 路口 lùkǒu
crosswalk 斑马线 斑馬線 bānmǎxiàn
traffic light 红绿灯 紅綠燈 hónglǜdēng
train station 火车站 火車站 huǒchē zhàn
bus stop 公车站 公車站 gōngchē zhàn
subway station 捷运站 捷運站 jiéyùn zhàn
train station 火车站 火車站 huǒchē zhàn
airport 机场 機場 jīchǎng
city center 市中心 市中心 shì zhōngxīn
harbor 港口 港口 gǎngkǒu
hospital 医院 醫院 yīyuàn
police station 警察局 警察局 jǐngchá jú
post office 邮局 郵局 yóujú
bank 银行 銀行 yínháng
park 公园 公園 gōngyuán
museum 博物馆 博物館 bówùguǎn
convenience store 便利商店 便利商店 biànlì shāngdiàn
restaurant 餐厅 餐廳 cāntīng
public restroom 公共厕所 公共廁所 gōnggòng cèsuǒ
bank 银行 銀行 yínháng
convenience store 便利商店 便利商店 biànlì shāngdiàn
bank 银行 銀行 yínháng

Understanding Directions in Chinese: Useful Words and Phrases

Of course, besides asking for directions, you’ll also need to understand the directions that you receive in Chinese! Below is a list of some landmarks in Chinese that you might hear when receiving directions from someone. You could also use these places when asking for directions.

English
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Pinyin
right (side) 右(边) 右 (邊) yòu(biān)
left (side) 左(边) 左 (邊) zuǒ(biān)
straight zhí
continue / keep 一直 一直 yīzhí
forward qián
backaward hòu
ahead/in front 前面 前面 qiánmiàn
back/behind 后面 後面 hòumiàn
toward wǎng
turn zhuǎn
next door 隔壁 隔壁 gébì
beside 旁边 旁邊 pángbiān
nearby 附近 附近 fùjìn
near/close jìn
far yuǎn


To help you prepare for understanding directions in Chinese, here are a few examples of directions:

1- Keep walking straight, and you’ll see it.

Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Pinyin
一直直走,你就会看到了。 一直直走,你就會看到了。 Yīzhí zhí zǒu, nǐ jiù huì kàn dàole.

2- The Royal Hotel is on Zhongxiao East Road.

Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Pinyin
皇家大饭店在忠孝东路上。 皇家大飯店在忠孝東路上。 Huángjiā dà fàndiàn zài zhōngxiào dōng lùshàng.


3- Keep walking, and turn right at the next intersection.

Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Pinyin
一直走,到前面的路口右转。 一直走,到前面的路口右轉。 Yīzhí zǒu, dào qiánmiàn de lùkǒu yòu zhuǎn.

4- Drive that way, go past two lights and then turn left.

Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Pinyin
往那边开,过两个红绿灯再左转。 往那邊開,過兩個紅綠燈再左轉。 Wǎng nà biān kāi,guò liǎng gè hónglǜdēng zài zuǒ zhuǎn.


5- The nearest convenience store is next to the police station.

Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Pinyin
最近的便利商店在警察局旁边。 最近的便利商店在警察局旁邊。 Zuìjìn de biànlì shāngdiàn zài jǐngchá jú pángbiān.


6- The aquarium is a bit far from here. You may need to take a bus or taxi.

Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Pinyin
水族馆离这里有点远。你可能需要搭公车或计程车。 Shuǐzú guǎn lí zhè li yǒudiǎn yuǎn. Nǐ kěnéng xūyào dā gōngchē huò jìchéngchē. 水族館離這裡有點遠。你可能需要搭公車或計程車。


Learning how to ask for and understand directions is an important skill to have, whether you’re traveling or living in a Chinese-speaking place. The vocabulary and sentence patterns above should help you get started asking and receiving directions in Chinese. To learn more and speak Chinese better, sign up on Glossika and get 1000 reps of Chinese audio training for free:

Foo

Foo


You May Also Like:

  1. Chinese Pronunciation: How to Practice the 4 Chinese Tones
  2. Differences Between Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese
  3. Where should I learn Mandarin Chinese: Taiwan or Mainland China?
  4. Free PDF+ MP3 Download: Glossika Chinese Pronunciation & Tone Training
  5. Follow Glossika on Instagram: