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How to Ask for Directions in Spanish

¿Dónde vas? — ‘Where are you going?’ How do you get there?

When beginning to learn Spanish, there will surely come a time when you want to know how to ask for directions to some destination. Let’s try a few schematic scenarios.

First, you may need to get someone’s attention:

Disculpe, señor (señorita) — pardon me, sir (miss).

Next, state your destination and your wish to get there:

Necesito ir al Hotel Miraflores. ¿Adonde queda? — I need to go to the Hotel Miraflores. Where is it located?

Of course there are many other ways to ask directions, but this is easy for an English speaking person and it will be taken as a request for directions.

Your addressee may say something like:

Lo siento, no sé. — Sorry, I don't know.

But probably you will get a helpful response. Here are some possibilities:

Siga derecho no mas. — Keep going straight ahead.

This one may be trickier to interpret than it seems. Especially in rural areas there is a tendency for the person giving directions to reorient the body in a certain direction and then gesture to indicate that you should proceed straight ahead in that direction, even though it may require a ninety degree turn for you.

En la esquina doble a la derecha y camine dos cuadras. — At the corner, turn right and walk two blocks.

Be careful not to confuse derecho ‘straight’ and a la derecha ‘right’ (on the right, to the right).

Tome la calle a la izquierda hasta llegar a la avenida Martínez. — Take the street on the left until you reach Martínez avenue.

Está al otro lado de la plaza central. — It's on the other side of the central plaza.

Tiene que dar vuelta y regresar por esta calle medio kilómetro porque ya se pasó. — You have to turn around and go back on this street half a kilometer, because you passed it.

Here’s a glossary of useful, directions related, Spanish vocabulary words and expressions:

camino — road, way
una calle — street
avenida — avenue
un callejón — alley, lane
vereda — path, way
sendero — path
acera — sidewalk
huellas — track, footprints, tire tracks
adonde, por dónde — where, by which way
doblar — turn, as in, right or left (doblar is also 'fold' when you are dealing with clothing, paper, etc)
dar vuelta — turn around, reverse direction
seguir, siga (polite directive) — go, follow
regresar — return, go back
lejos — far away
cerca — near
a pocos pasos — a few steps away
al lado — next to, next door
al otro lado — on the other side
frente a — facing
detrás de — behind, in back of
una subida — ascent
una bajada — descent
parqueo — parking
estacionamiento — parking
alojamiento — lodging
aldea — village
pueblo — town
una ciudad — city
parador — stop, resting place
descanso — rest, resting place
fuente — fountain, drinking fountain
agua — potable drinking water

Remember that things are located with the estar verb, not ser. There are other ways of expressing being in a place or location:

queda en — stays, remains, is located at or on
se ubica en — is situated at
se encuentra en — is found at

El Hotel Miraflores se encuentra en la avenida de la plaza central. — Hotel Miraflores can be found on the avenue of the central plaza.

El Hotel Miraflores se ubica frente a la plaza central. — Hotel Miraflores is located on the central plaza.

Now that you know how to ask for directions in Spanish…

Hasta la vista. ¡Qué le vaya bien! — ‘Until again (see you later). Go safely!’

How to Say “What Time Is It?” in Spanish

Click Here – To Learn More With Free Audio/Visual Spanish Lessons Online

Never mind the stereotype about countries with Spanish speakers being “mañana” land! Urban people all over the globe need to keep track of the time, and Spanish speakers are no exception. People need to keep appointments, watch games, meet people, have office-hours and store-hours and say how long an event is scheduled or expected to last. Now we are going to sort out some ways of conversing about tiempo ‘time’ in Spanish.

The basic question you might need to ask, if you don’t have access to your watch or cell phone is:

¿Qué hora es? — What time is it?

It’s not a a bad conversation opener, either, in which case you would want to be more polite and considerate:

¿Qué hora es, por favor? — What time is it, please?
¿Tiene usted la hora? — Do you have the time?
Hágame el favor de decirme qué hora es. — Do me the favor of telling me what time it is.

As in English, the “be” verb is used in time expressions. Remember, there are two “be” verbs in Spanish—ser and estar. Even though we all know time is fleeting, the verb used in Spanish time expressions is ser, not estar. If it is one o’clock, or one plus any number of minutes up to two o’clock, the verb is singular es. For all other times the verb is plural son.

Es la una. — It's one o'clock.
Es la una y veinte. — It's 1:20.

(Notice the feminine article la, which agrees with the understood hora.)

Son las dos. — It's two o'clock.
Son las dos en punto. — It's exactly two o'clock.
Son las dos y media. — It's half past two.
Son las dos y cuarto. — It's two-fifteen.
Son las dos menos cuarto. — It's a quarter to two.
Son las dos y cuarenta. — It's 2:40.
Son las tres menos veinte. — It's twenty of three.

If it is necessary to specify A.M. or P.M.:

Son las cuatro de la tarde. — It's four in the afternoon.
Son las cuatro de la mañana. — It's four in the morning.
Son las diez de la noche. — It's ten at night.

[review the numbers in article How To Learn Spanish: Numbers 1-100]

But note that official times in Spanish-speaking countries are normally given on a twenty-four hour basis:

a las trece horas — at thirteen zero zero (or, incorrectly: thirteen hundred hours) (one o'clock)
a las trece horas con diez minutos — at thirteen ten (1:10)
La película empieza a las veinte horas. — The movie begins at eight o'clock.

If your bus leaves for Michoacán

a las ocho horas

…you can be sure that it will be at 8 o’clock in the morning.

Some benchmark but non-numerical time expressions are:

a mediodía — at noon
a medianoche — at midnight
al amanecer — at dawn
al anochecer — at sunset

Notice the first two do not require an article, but the last two have the masculine article el contracted with the preposition a ‘at’. a + el becomes al.

Let’s see how some of these expressions work. Raúl and Elena are discussing their plans for the day.

Elena:
Voy de compras con mamá a mediodía. — I'm going shopping with mother at noon.

Raúl:
Bueno, ya son las doce y media. Ya estás en atraso. — Well, it's already twelve-thirty. You are already late.

Elena:
¡Ay! — Oh-oh!

Raúl:
Ay, no. Me equivoqué. Mi reloj está adelantado. — No, I was mistaken. My watch is fast (advanced).

El reloj de la cocina da las doce y cuarto. — The clock in the kitchen says (gives) twelve-fifteen.

Elena:
En todo caso, es hora de irme. ¡Chao! — Anyway, it is time for me to leave. Chow!

Learn To Converse In Spanish With Free Lessons – Click Here

The next discussion of time will continue, with parts of the day, durations of time and other time expressions–all enhorabuena ‘well and good’.

Lo, the Mysterious Article

A student of Spanish learns very early that the articles vary according to the gender and number of the following noun. Articles are those little words that accompany nouns: “the” or “a” in English–telling you whether the noun is referring to a specific thing (definite) or a non-specific thing (indefinite). Since nouns in Spanish belong to one of two gender classes and nouns may be singular or plural, there are many more forms of the article, as in this chart:

masculine feminine
definite singular el la
plural los las
indefinite singular un una
plural unos unas

There is a third neuter article, lo.

This article has no plural. It has a wide range of use before adjectives and certain other parts of speech to make them into nouns:

lo verdadero — that which is true
lo posible — that which is possible
lo mío — mine, that which is mine

(Compare this with la mía, which would refer to an antecedent feminine noun.)

lo difícil — the difficult thing
lo importante — the important thing

Notice that lo is used where the referent idea is not some specific thing but rather an abstract situation or collection of unidentified things:

Me pasó a mí lo mismo. — The same thing happened to me.
Lo del jefe ya se solucionó. — The problem regarding the boss is already solved.

This same neuter gender also shows up in the neuter demonstrative pronouns, esto, eso and aquello, more or less corresponding to “this, that and the other.”

Alcánceme eso. — Hand me that (thing).
¿Qué es esto? — What's this?
No quiero discutir aquello del otro día. — I don't want to argue about the issue of the other day.

These neuter demonstrative pronouns, like lo, the neuter article, also never occur in the plural and never refer to a gendered word but rather to unidentified or abstract situations or things.

In the lessons you will see how useful neuter can be in conversations.