Understand Directions in Spanish
In addition to the web version, you can download the lesson as a PDF, found at the bottom of the page.
Be sure to listen and practice with the audio throughout the lesson.
Understand Directions in Spanish
By now you’ve seen different ways to ask for directions. You’re trying to find baggage claim, asking about taxi stands, or looking for the metro station.
But it won’t do you any good if you don’t understand the instructions.
Learning directional phrases, prepositional phrases and some common landmarks (a famous park, a well-known intersection, etc.) will help you figure out how to arrive.
The lesson gives you a framework for how someone may answer your questions and give you directions.
We’re going to start small and add pieces along the way that will get us to complete directions.
Let’s start with these two questions. Once you ask these, you’ll want to prepare for some possible responses, which we’ll go through below.
¿Dónde está el/la ____?
Where is the _____?
¿Cómo puedo llegar a ____?
How do I get to ____?
The easiest way to begin is to learn how someone is going to respond to your questions.
“Go…, Walk…, Turn…, Continue…”
As in, “Go this way, Walk that way, Turn right, Continue on…”
There are a few different ways to say these in Spanish, but let’s focus on using the “tú ” form,
This is the informal one and is reasonable to expect for getting directions in public.
Vas a ir...
You’re going to go…
Next, you might be told a connecting directional phrase.
by; through; around
Both por and para mean multiple things. Here we’re sticking to the most used definitions when it comes to directions.
After those phrases, you may be told a more specific direction.
el norte / el sur
the north/ the south
el este / el oeste
the east/ the west
And finally, you may get a noun, like a landmark, a mall, a park or a well-known intersection.
Using some pieces from above, the first part of the directions could sound like this:
Ve para el metro.
Go towards the metro
(De acá), vas a ir al norte.
(From here), you’re going to go north.
Camina hacia el parque.
Walk towards the park.
Dobla a la izquierda en la próxima esquina.
Turn (to the) left at the next corner.
Da vuelta a la derecha y pasa por el callejón cuando llegues al…
Turn (to the) right and pass through the alley when you reach the…
There’s likely a point where you’ll hear:
This usually signals some sort of stop, turn, or end point of the directions.
By combining some possibilities from above, we can construct more complete directions.
Vas a ir al norte hasta la entrada del parque.
You’re going to go towards the north until the park entrance
Camina hacia esa iglesia hasta que termine el camino en la calle cincuenta y siete.
Walk towards that church until the path ends on 57th street.
Again, there might be additional directions like above.
But once you’re near the destination, you can listen for words like these, which usually signal that you’re close:
al lado de
in front of
opposite of, in front of
over; above; on; upon
Let’s start to construct longer, more detailed examples.
“Vas a ir al norte hasta la entrada del parque. De ahí, sigue a la derecha y el mercado está al lado del banco.”
“You’re going to go towards the north until the park entrance. From there, continue to the right and the market is beside the bank.”
“Camina hacia esa iglesia hasta que termine el camino en la calle cincuenta y siete. Sigue caminando a mano izquierda, entre las tiendas, hasta la última. La plaza principal está cerca de ahí—vas a verla.”
“Walk towards that church until the path ends on 57th street. Continue walking on the left-hand side, between the shops, until the last one. The main plaza is close to here—you’re going to see it.”
Familiarize yourself with some of the most common points of reference.
You can then begin to map out the directions in your head as they’re speaking.
Landmarks and other points of reference
La plaza principal
main plaza/ square
El centro commercial
La gasolinera/ la bomba
El café/ la cafetería
You should also be familiar with generic points of reference, since landmarks aren’t always available.
place; spot; space
El paso peatonal
La calle peatonal
Finally, you can pick up on these phrases so that you don’t get turned around and know exactly when and where to stop.
Other useful directional words/ phrases
Cruza la calle
Cross the street
Keep going straight
Es la próxima…
It’s the next
Es la primera…
It’s the first…
Es la segunda…
It’s the second…
A una cuadra de…
One block from…
A dos cuadras de…
Two blocks from…
Watch out; be careful
Serendipity is great and all, but sometimes you’d rather just arrive without taking the scenic route.
Hopefully you’ve picked up some useful stuff here and can spend more time enjoying a new city and less time getting lost.
The next lesson is going to start the grammar part of the Beginner Series.
It’s not thrilling by any means, but it’s important that you have a good understanding of how sentences are constructed, from the ground up.