How to ask directions in Chinese

If you will make use of your Chinese on the home land of native Chinese populations. Such as China mainland, Taiwan, Singapore…. there’s one lesson that you really can’t miss:”How to ask directions in Chinese?” As long as you’re going to places, there’s no guarantee that you won’t get lost.

In this post, I’ll teach you how to ask and understand directions in Chinese. First of all, let’s get our first look at the four universally agreed directions. At the same time learn some new words as well.

dōng nán běi
[hanzi][/hanzi] [hanzi][/hanzi] [hanzi]西[/hanzi] [hanzi][/hanzi]
east south west north

New words:

yán zhe tiáo jiē
[hanzi]沿着[/hanzi] [hanzi][/hanzi] [hanzi][/hanzi]
along  quantifier  street
xiàng dào
[hanzi][/hanzi] [hanzi][/hanzi] [hanzi][/hanzi]
towards river road
[hanzi][/hanzi] [hanzi][/hanzi]
along road


Let’s put them on a compass now:


Imagine you got yourself lost after an enjoyable movie in the movie or theater (this is very likely to happen if you watched the movie on a foreign street 🙂 ). You fish out your name card with your name, position and home address on it and ask for directions to local people that can only understand Chinese.

In the response you got, you might hear something like this to start with:

“ yánzhe zhè tiáo jiē wǎng dōng zǒu, ……”

沿着这条街往东走, ……”

“Walk towards east along this street …”

The phrase in this sentence ”往东走 wǎng dōng zǒu” means “walk towards east”. Don’t forget the reverse word order in Chinese that I’ve taught so many times: where + verb. That’s why in Chinese, the phrase become this order:”towards east walk”.

The word “towards” can be translated by “往 wǎng”, “向 xiàng”, or ”顺 shùn”. It is OK to say: ”往东走wǎng dōng zǒu”, “向东走xiàng dōng zǒu” or “顺东走 shùn dōng zǒu”.

“沿着 yán zhe” means “along” in English.

“ 沿着这条街 yánzhe zhè tiáo jiē”=”along this street”


Now let’s have a mini practice to get your hands wet:

Please express the “walk along this road towards north” in Chinese:

First, change word order first: along this road + towards north + walk;

Second, fill in Chinese words like this: 沿着这条道 + 向北 + 走

街 jiē,  道 dào, and 路 lù can all be used to mean “the street”.

You might wonder now that what if it’s not right on the four directions. But instead in between of them. Such as south west, or north east etc.?

The answer is simple, put the two direction characters together. Such as: 西南, 东北 etc.

The only catch here is the order of the two characters in a compound word is reversed from that of English.

In Chinese, “south” and “north” are always the ending character. “west” and “east” are always the beginning character. Yet in English, it’s the opposite.

I’ve put them into a table for you to memorize easily:

South east South west
东南 dōng nán 西南 xī nán
North east North west
东北 dōng běi 西北 xī běi


Isn’t that easy?

Now let’s finish our lesson with some examples:

wǒ de jiā yánzhe zhè tiáo jiē wǎng dōngběi zǒu jiù néng kànjiàn.


You’ll see my house if you walk along this street towards north east.


xuéxiào yánzhe zhè tiáo hé wǎng xīnán zǒu jiùshì.


To get to the school, you need to walk towards south west along this river.

Please practice using the direction words to ask for directions and answer for directions. It will come handy next time you got lost 🙂

Welcome to have my face to face lesson on  !  🙂


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