How to ask directions in French

Nowadays, your smartphone can be your best friend when you feel lost. However, you never know when you’ll be left with no signal or a dead battery. That’s why it’s important to understand how to ask for directions in French before your trip to any francophone destination.

Today, you’re going to learn how to approach people politely in French. We’ll also teach you some important phrases and verbs to help ask your way in French.

directions french

Table of content :

  1. How to approach people politely in French
  2. Phrases to ask/get your way
  3. Useful verbs for directions

How to approach people politely

Firstly, the best way to approach a local to ask them anything is by starting with a courteous greeting :

  • Bonjour Madame / Monsieur = Good morning Madam / Sir
  • Bonsoir.. = Good evening..
  • Excuse-moi = Excuse me (informal)
  • Excusez-moi = Excuse me (formal)
  • Pardon = Pardon / Sorry
  • S’il te plait = Please (informal)
  • S’il vous plait = Please (formal)

Remember : As noted previously, the most polite tense to use in these questions is the conditional.

approach people politely

Phrases to ask/get your way

Then, once you’ve got the local’s attention, there are several ways you can ask them for directions. The easiest way of doing so is by saying the name of the place you are looking for. It must be done as a question. Therefore, the intonation is crucial here. Indeed, if you don’t make it clear that you’re asking a question,  you may create confusion.

Basic questions for directions

Here are some examples :

  • Excusez-moi, le musée d’Orsay s’il vous plait ? = Excuse-me, the Orsay museum please ?
  • Madame, le métro Bastille s’il vous plait ? = Madam, the Bastille metro please ?

Additional questions to ask your way

When you feel more confident, you could also add verbs. And you have the choice between open and closed questions as follows :

Closed questions :

  • Est-ce que le bus 34 s’arrête ici ? = Does the bus 34  stop here ?
  • Est-ce que l’hôpital St Louis est loin d’ici ? = Is the St Louis hospital far from here ?
  • Savez-vous s’il y a un distributeur dans le quartier ? = Do you know if there’s an ATM in the area ?

Open questions :

  • Excusez-moi, pour aller à l’Opera Garnier ? = Excuse-me, to go to the Opera Garnier ?
  • (Pourriez-vous m’indiquer/me dire) comment aller à l’aéroport ? = (Could you indicate/tell me) how to go to the airport ?
  • Quel est le meilleur chemin pour aller à Vincennes  ? = What’s the best way to go to Vincennes ?
  • Où se trouve la gare Du Nord ? = Where is the Gare du Nord ?
  • A quelle distance est le métro Rivoli ? = How far is the metro Rivoli ?

Note : To be as precise as possible, don’t forget to review the French prepositions of place.

get directions in french

Useful verbs for directions

At last, once you have successfully asked for directions, comes the challenging part: understanding the answer you get. So here you have a list of verbs we frequently use when giving directions :

  • Aller = to go
  • Conduire = to drive
  • Continuer = to continue
  • Entrer = to enter
  • Tourner = to turn
  • Marcher = to walk
  • Monter/Descendre = to go up / down
  • Passer = to pass
  • Prendre = to take
  • Se déplacer = to move / to get around
  • Traverser = to cross
  • Voyager = to travel

Finally, one more phrase I hope you won’t need much “être perdu(e)” which means to be lost.

Tip : for more mouvement verbs, feel free to check the article : Rentrer, Retourner and Revenir.

verbs for directions

In conclusion, asking for directions can be a great way of practicing French with a native speaker. That way, you will improve your conversational and listening skills.

Make sure to contact me for tailored French courses or for any further questions you may have. A bientôt!