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How to express directions

Direction is an important communicative topic. The context of this video is at school.
Li Hui: It’s my first time to visit Songjiang campus of SISU. Zhēn piàoliang!
Li Yameng: Shì a, zhēn piàoliang.
Li Hui: Xǐshǒujiān zàinǎr, Amy?
Li Yameng: Xǐshǒujiān jìu zài nǐ de zuǒbiān. When you are wondering where the location of a place is, you can say the place first and then put “zàinǎr” right after the place, such as “1hàolóu zàinǎr”,”Túshūguǎn zàinǎr”,”4hàolóu zàinǎr”.
The question will also sound more polite if you start it with “qǐngwèn”. The format of the location words is “A zài B qiánbiān, hòubiān, zuǒbiān, yòubiān, pángbiān, duìmiàn”, For example–
Li Hui: Amy, shítáng zàinǎr?
Li Yameng: Shítáng zài 1hàolóu pángbiān.
Li Hui: Túshūguǎn zàinǎr?
Li Yameng: Túshūguǎn zài 1hàolóu duìmiàn.
Li Hui: Amy, xiànzài jǐdiǎn?
Li Yameng: Xiànzài 12 diǎn yíkè. Wǒmen qù shítáng chīfàn ba.
Li Hui: Hǎo a, shítáng lí zhèr yuǎn ma?
Is cafeteria far away from here?
Li Yameng: It is close to here. Lí zhèr hěn jìn.
Li Hui: Please take a look at the sentence pattern. “Yuǎn” and “jìn” are a pair of antonyms. “Yuǎn” means far, while “jìn” means close. “4hàolóu lí 1hàolóu hěn yuǎn”
means the building 4 is far away from the building 1.
“Shítáng lí 1hàolóu hěn jìn” means the cafeteria is close to the building 1. Amy, I’m leaving now but the campus is so big. I’m very confused to where the main entrance is. Xuéxiào dàmén zàinǎr?
Li Yameng: Xuéxiào dàmén lí zhèr bùyuǎn, zhízǒu 50 mǐ, wǎng zuǒ guǎi jiù dào le.
Li Hui: Hǎode.
Li Yameng: The co-verb “wǎng” indicates the direction of motion towards a certain place, such as “wǎng zuǒ guǎi”, “wǎng yòu guǎi”.
Here “guǎi” means turn. “Zhízǒu” means go straight ahead. We put the distance after it, like “zhízǒu 200 mǐ”.
Go straight for 200 metres. Let’s have some practise. Here is a map for you. Please tell the boy “Cāochǎng zàinǎr?”.
Cāochǎng zàinǎr? Xiān zhízǒu 100 mǐ, ránhòu wǎng zuǒ guǎi, zhízǒu 300 mǐ, cāochǎng jiù zài nǐ de pángbiān.
Lydia, I bet next time you come to SISU you won’t ask me “Shítáng zàinǎr?”.
Li Hui: Yeah. Sure. Shítáng lí zhèr hěn jìn, xiān zhízǒu 100 mǐ, ránhòu wǎng zuǒ guǎi, shítáng zài 1hàolóu pángbiān.
Li Yameng: Duì. I believe you know how to ask directions when you are in China.

Direction is an important communicative topic.

The context of this video is at school.One of the instructors didn’t know where the restroom is, so she asked the following question.


Location word 在(zài) somewhere

洗手间在哪儿? (Xǐshǒujiān zài nǎr?)
Where is the restroom?

To answer the above question, we need to learn the necessary vocabulary about position.

  • 前边(qiánbian) in front, front
  • 后边(hòubian) after, behind
  • 左边(zuǒbian) left
  • 右边(yòubian) right
  • 旁边(pángbiān) beside, next to
  • 对面(duìmiàn) opposite; across from
Here is an example to answer the first question.
洗手间在图书馆旁边。 (Xǐshǒujiān zài túshūguǎn pángbiān.)
The restroom is next to the library.
Here is a sentence pattern for describing the distance between two locations.
A 离(lí) B 远(yuǎn)
4号楼离1号楼很远。 (sìhàolóu lí yīhàolóu hěn yuǎn.)
Building 4 is far away from the Building 1.
A 离(lí) B 近(jìn)
食堂离1号楼很近。 (Shítáng lí yīhàolóu hěn jìn.)
The cafeteria is close to Building 1.
“远(yuǎn)” and “近(jìn)” is a pair of antonyms. “远(yuǎn)” means “far” while “近(jìn)” means “close”.
In Chinese, “turn left” and “turn right” are expressed with a co-verb 往(wǎng) which indicates the direction of motion towards a certain place.
  • 往左拐(wǎng zuǒ guǎi) turn left
  • 往右拐(wǎng yòu guǎi) turn right
  • 拐(guǎi) turn.

If you have any other questions about direction and position, please leave us comments freely.

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Learn Chinese: Introduction to Chinese Conversation

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