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Asking Directions

Asking Directions

 

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Requirements

Directions

 

 

 

Hello! In this lesson, we will learn to give and understand directions.  

In previous lessons, we have learned to describe locations of things and people in terms of other things of people. For example, we have learned to use the prepositions "in, on, over, under," and "beside".

We have also learned to discuss locations by saying that something is "to the right of" or "to the left of" something else. We have learned that we can describe the location of a building by saying the building is "east of" or "west of" another building.

In this lesson, we will synthesize all this information and learn how to give directions and understand when we are given directions.
For example, if a plumber comes to fix the sink in David and Jennifer's apartment, David might explain that "The bathroom is down the hall. It's the first door on the left."  

When the plumber leaves and asks how to get to the school, where there is more plumbing work to do, Jennifer might say "Turn left from our parking lot and go south on First Avenue. Go straight on First Avenue to the highway. Turn right on the highway. Go straight on the highway for about three miles to the intersection with Rose Street. The school will be on your right."

Some expressions are somewhat idiomatic. For example, some people say "Go down to the corner." even if there is no "up" or "down" involved.  We do not need to use "up" and "down" when giving directions, but we might hear these words when other people give directions. Sometimes these are short local trips, and the words "down" and "up" have no practical meaning.  

Sometimes people talk about "blocks". A block is the space from one cross street to the next cross street. There is no set distance; a block is simply this space between two cross streets. Some blocks are short; some "city blocks" are quite long.

Now that you have an idea of how to give and receive directions in English, listen to this dialog. In this dialog, Jennifer is giving directions to Mrs. Smith's house. David is going to deliver a package to her.

David: Where is her house?

Jennifer:  It is two blocks west of the school.

David: Which school?

Jennifer: West Middle School. Turn left from our parking lot and go south on First Avenue. Go straight on First Avenue to the highway. Turn right on the highway. Go straight on the highway for about three miles to the intersection with Rose Street. The school will be on your right.

David:  I keep going on First Avenue?

Jennifer: Yes, go past the school. Continue west two blocks on the highway to Bloom Street. Her house is 101 Bloom Street.

David:  Is it on the right or on the left?

Jennifer:  Take a left on Bloom. It is a big brown house on the corner.

Now that you have an idea of how to give and receive directions, let us take a closer look at each sentence in the dialog.

After David asks "Where is her house?", Jennifer answers by giving general directions. She says "It is two blocks west of the school."  Notice that she givesinitial directions in terms of some specific location – the school. She could also have said "It is two blocks to the west of the school."

David asks for clarification by asking "Which school?" He wants to be sure that understands which school she is referring to.

Jennifer specifies the school by saying "West Middle School." She gives the name of the school. She follows up with exact directions to West Middle School. At first she says "Turn left from our parking lot and go south on First Avenue.".

She could have said "Take a left out of our parking lot and go south on First Avenue.". She then says "Go straight on First Avenue to the highway.". She could have said "Continue going straight on First Avenue until you get to the highway.".

Then she says "Turn right on the highway.". She could have said "Take a right onto the highway.". Then she says "Go straight on the highway for about three miles to the intersection with Rose Street.".

She could have said "Go straight ahead on the highway to Rose Street.". She wraps up by saying "The school will be on your right.". Although the school is on the right, we often refer to locations as in the future tense – "the school will be on your right" because the person will come to the school in the future. Of course the school is presently in that location.

David asks "I keep going on First Avenue?". David knows that the Smiths's house is further west, so he clarifies that he should continue driving on the highway.

Jennifer says "Yes, go past the school.". She might also have said "Yes, pass the school.", or "Yes, continue past the school.". She then says "Continue west two blocks on the highway to Bloom Street.". She could have said "Stay on the highway until you get to the intersection with Bloom Street.". She gives the Smiths' address: "Her house is 101 Bloom Street.". She could have said "Her address is 101 Bloom Street.".

David asks for clarification by asking "Is it on the right or on the left?". He could have asked" Do I turn right or left?" Jennifer responds "Take a left on Bloom. It is a big brown house on the corner." She might have said "Turn left on Bloom." or "Turn left onto Bloom.".

Notice that she clarifies that the house is "on the corner".
Now that we understand the directions that Jennifer gave, let us listen to the dialog again. Visualize the directions as Jennifer speaks. Perhaps jot the directions on a sheet of paper so that you understand them in a concrete way. Imagine that you are going to follow Jennifer's directions as you listen.

David: Where is her house?

Jennifer:   It is two blocks west of the school.

David: Which school?

Jennifer:  West Middle School. Turn left from our parking lot and go south on First Avenue. Go straight on First Avenue to the highway. Turn right on the highway. Go straight on the highway for about three miles to the intersection with Rose Street. The school will be on your right.

David:  I keep going on First Avenue?

Jennifer: Yes, go past the school. Continue west two blocks on the highway to Bloom Street. Her house is 101 Bloom Street.

David:  Is it on the right or on the left?

Jennifer:  Take a left on Bloom. It is a big brown house.

Great! Did you jot down the directions as Jennifer spoke? Would you be able to find the Smiths' house? Practice giving and receiving directions in English. Practice jotting down directions as you would if you were in an unfamiliar area. Be sure to practice asking for clarification when you are unsure.