How to ask directions

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BBC Learning English How to … Asking for and giving directions

Jackie:

Hello, welcome to BBC Learning English dot com. I'm Jackie Dalton. Today's programme is all about giving and understanding directions. Our reporter Helen is new to London and has been out asking people for directions to various different places. We'll take a look at some of the key phrases that come up as she tries tofind her way around. Let's start with a simple one.

Examples Can you tell me how to get to the nearest toilet, please? To the nearest toilet? Yes, you just go down the stairs here, turn right and it's just on your right.

Jackie:

Nice and easy. 'Turn right' or 'turn left' – a simple way of telling people in which direction they should go. And if you want to describe the position of aparticular place in relation to the person you can say it's 'on your right', or 'on your left'. Let's listen to that clip once more.

Examples Can you tell me how to get to the nearest toilet, please? To the nearest toilet? Yes, you just go down the stairs here, turn right and it's just on your right.

Jackie:

Now listen out for a slightly different way of telling someone to turn left or right.Examples Can I ask you how to get to the nearest bus stop please?

How to … Asking for and giving directions bbclearningenglish.com

© BBC Learning English 2007 Page 1 of 5

Just go straight to the bottom there, just take a left turn, take a left turn – and that's it, yeah, it's just round the corner.

Jackie:

That's another way of telling someone to go in a particular direction –earlier we heard the phrase 'turn right' or 'turn left', you could also say 'take a left' or 'take a left turn'. A word that's already come up five times is 'just'. Listen to how it's used.

Examples You just go down the stairs here, turn right and it's just on your right. Just go straight to the bottom there, just take a left turn, take a left turn – and that's it, yeah, it's just round thecorner.

Jackie:

'Just' is a sort of filler and a way of suggesting that what the person has to do isn't difficult: 'Just go down the stairs' somehow sounds easier than 'Go down the stairs'. Listen again:

Examples You just go down the stairs here, turn right and it's just on your right. Just go straight to the bottom there, just take a left turn, take a left turn – and that's it, yeah, it's justround the corner.

Jackie:

One thing that can be confusing when it comes to directions is the use of the word 'right'. Listen to this clip – the word 'right' is used in three different ways.

Examples Do you know how to get to Covent Garden? Yeah, yeah, you just go…at the end of the street, go left and then go right and take the second right around the Aldwych theatre, go right up there,then go left and Covent Garden Market will just be right in front you – you just walk down…

How to … Asking for and giving directions bbclearningenglish.com

© BBC Learning English 2007 Page 2 of 5

Jackie:

Let's break that down.

Examples go left and then go right

Jackie:

simple enough – 'go right' means the same as 'turn right' or 'take a right'. What about here?

Examplesaround the Aldwych theatre, go right up there

Jackie:

'Go right up there' could be interpreted in two different ways and even a native English speaker could get confused here. The man could have meant 'turn right', or he could have meant 'go all the way up there'. 'Go right up there' - 'go all the way up there'. We say things like 'go right to the end of the road' to mean 'go all the way tothe end of the road' – very different from taking a right turn. A clue is often in the prepositions. If you’re telling someone to turn, it often comes with the preposition 'at'. For example, 'Go right at the main road'. Whereas the preposition 'up' – 'Go right up the main road' – tends to mean go all the way up the main road. If you're not sure, just ask. So that's two different uses of 'right'....
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