Tag Archives: locations in spanish

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!’

Pointing Something Out in Spanish

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Pointing something out in Spanish: is it aquí, ahí, allí, acá or allá?

These five locational adverbs are used frequently in speech, less so in written text unless it is representing dialogue. This is for good reason, because these words are deictics, or pointer terms. They need context to be fully interpretable. The nearness or farness and the degree of indeterminacy associated with the position of an object depends on a point of reference, usually the speaker.

Something near the speaker can be:

  • aquí, if it is ‘right here’, or
  • acá, if it is ‘around here’.

Aquí están mis llaves. — Here are my keys. (I'm looking at them)
Pongan acá el sofá. — Put the sofa over here.

If you were talking to the movers you could then say:

Más acá, por favor. — A little closer please.

…but you could never say más aquí because it’s impossible to get more “here” than “right here”.

Something farther away from the speaker can be:

  • ahí or allí, if it is ‘right there’ or
  • allá, if it is ‘around there’.

But what about differentiating ahí and allí? For some speakers they seem interchangeable. Some speakers have only one term, understandable in regions where -ll- is pronounced [y] so that ahí and allí sound alike. (Remember: the letter h is always silent). For others, ahí may tend toward a metaphorical usage:

Ahí está la dificultad. — There's the problem.
De ahí se sabe quién es responsable. — From that you know who is responsible / That's how you know who is responsible.

¡Ahí está! That’s it!

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