If you are a foreigner who lives in China, you wouldn’t like to miss the opportunity to explore some of the most fascinating tourist sites which are often located in secluded corners across the country. Well, let’s put aside this topic for a moment and try to be a little more practical. Imagine you live in a big Chinese city, and you feel puzzled about how to get to the place you want to get to. It’d be certainly helpful if you have the ability to ask passersby for directions in Chinese, and that’s what we will be focusing on in this article.
1. Where is …?
Structure: Place + 在 (zài) + 哪儿 (nǎr)? = Where is……?
In this structure, “在 (zài)” means “in/at”, and “哪儿 (nǎr)” means “where”. This is a typical structure used by Chinese people to ask where something or someone is located.
Hànyǔ xuéxiào zài nǎr?
Where is the Chinese language school?
汉语 (Hànyǔ) – the Chinese language
学校 (xuéxiào) – school
2. How do I get to…?
Structure: Place + 怎么 (zěnme) 走 (zǒu) ? = How to get to…….?
This is a commonly-used structure for people to ask for directions. “怎么 (zěnme)” means “how”, and “走 (zǒu)” means “to walk”. Hence, the structure literally means “how to walk to a certain place”.
Qǐng wèn chāoshì zěnme zǒu?
Can I ask how to get to the supermarket?
请问 (Qǐng wèn): Can I ask……
超市 (chāoshì): supermarket
When it comes to different kinds of answers to the two questions above, you might hear the following words and phrases:
一直走 (yīzhí zǒu): go straight ahead
左拐 (zuǒ guǎi): turn left
右拐 (yòu guǎi): turn right
那儿 (nàr): over there
路口 (lùkǒu): crossroads
红绿灯 (hónglǜdēng): traffic lights
先 (xīan)……，然后 (ránhòu)…… = first……., and then……..
Now let’s take a look at a couple of dialogues including some of the words explained above for you to have a rough idea of how to use them in real-life situations.
Example 1: Go Straight, Turn Right
(Qǐng wèn cāntīng zěnme zǒu?)
Hello, can I ask how to get to the restaurant?
(Xīan yīzhí zǒu ránhòu yòu guǎi.)
Go straight ahead first, and then turn right.
餐厅 (cāntīng): restaurant
Example 2: Go Straight, Turn Left At the Traffic Light
(Bù hǎoyìsi, qǐng wèn yínháng zài nǎlǐ?)
Excuse me, can I ask where the bank is?
(Xīan yīzhí zǒu ránhòu zài hónglǜdēng nàr zuǒ guǎi.)
Go straight ahead first, and then turn left over there at the traffic light.
银行 (yínháng): bank
哪里 (nǎlǐ): where
Example 3: Go Straight, Turn Left At the Intersection
(Nǐ hǎo, qǐng wèn yīyuàn zěnme zǒu?)
Hello, can I ask how to get to the hospital?
(Xīan yīzhí zǒu, ránhòu zài nà gè lùkǒu yòu guǎi.)
Go straight ahead first, and then turn left at that intersection.
医院 (yīyuàn): hospital
那个 (nà gè): that one