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Useful English: how to ask for directions

Fotolia_51071376_XS-300x199Whether you’ve just moved to London or are here only for few days, you’ve probably found yourself lost in the city at least once. And there it comes: your chance to practise your English! So stop checking on Google Maps and be brave, ask a passer-by for directions 🙂

How to do it? Here’s some useful language:

DIRECT QUESTIONS

Let’s start easy:

Excuse-me…
…where is Victoria Station?
…is there a bank nearby?

‘nearby’ means ‘near here’.

…how can I get to Trafalgar Square?

Remember that get is followed by the preposition ‘to’ and not ‘at’: how can I get at to Trafalgar Square?

INDIRECT QUESTIONS

Indirect questions usually sound more ‘polite’:

do you know where the station is?  
When asking indirect questions, remember that you need to invert the subject and the verb only once: do you know where  is the station is?

could you tell me where the station is?  

do you know how I can get to the station?

do you know where I should get off? (useful when you’re on the bus / tube)

do you know whether/if there is an ATM nearby?

do you know the way to the National Gallery?

This structure is also possible: WHERE / HOW+ TO – INFINITIVE:

…can you tell me how to get to the station?

…do you know where to get off

IS IT NEAR/FAR?    HOW FAR IS IT?

or do you know how far it is?

Here are some possible answers to your question:

It’s walking distance.
It’s a five-minute walk.
It’s a good five-minute walk. >> ‘a good’ here means ‘probably a bit more than 5 mins’
It’s a bit of a walk >> meaning: you can walk there but it’s a little far.
It’s pretty / quite far, you might want to take a bus there. >> ‘pretty’ and ‘quite’ here mean ‘not very far but still a bit too far to walk it’ and the expression ‘you might want’ is often used to give advice and it means ‘it would be better/good if’ or ‘you should’, here are more examples:

You might want to phone her before going there.
>> You should phone her before..

You might want to read this to get ready for your interview
>> It would be good if you read this to get..

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE BY …?

Just to make sure that the place you’re trying to reach is not farther than you think, you might want to ask how long it takes to get there:

How long does it take by bus?

It takes 10 minutes by bus. 
Rule: it takes + # minutes/hours/days etc  by + mean of transport (by car/bus/taxi/tube etc)

Notice that the structure ‘to take+someone+ time period+ to get somewhere’ is also possible:

How long does it take you to get to work? It usually takes me 30 minutes.

Hope it helps 🙂
Talk soon,
Deb

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Confusing questions with ‘like’

A lot of my beginner students seem to be confused by the use of the word “like” in questions. Let’s have a look at the examples below:
questions with like

Question 1: what’s he like?
or in other words: “what type of person is he?” or “tell me something about his personality”.
Hence, a possible answer could be “He is friendly and easy-going”.

Remember! Never answer this question starting with “he is like…

Question 2: what does he look like?
or in other words “Can you describe his physical appearance?”
To this question, you could reply “He is tall, thin and has got brown hair”

Question 3: who does he look like?
or in other words “Who does he resemble to?”
You could answer saying “He looks like Brad Pitt!”.

Question 4: what does he like?
or in other words “What are his interests / hobbies etc?”
and so a sensible answer could be “he likes swimming, Chinese food and spy-stories”

diaporama,1928-Les-jardins-du-Champs-de-Mars,Paris_largeQuestion number 1 could also be used to ask you about a city.
Look at the example below:

A:“What’s Paris like?” (“what sort of place is Paris?”)
B: “Paris is big, chaotic and expensive”

Remember that if someone wants to know your opinion about Paris, he or she would probably use the question “What do you like about Paris?” or simply “Do you like Paris?”.
Look at the following dialogue:

A: “Do you like Paris?”
B: “Yes, I love it!?”
A: “What do you like about Paris?”
B: “I like the people, cafes and walking along the Seine!”

Hope this is clear, if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment!:)