How to Ask for and Understand Directions in French

If you ever got lost in a foreign country, you know how complicated it can be to find your way when nobody speaks your language.

Luckily, a few French words can help you ask for directions and most of all understand the answer.

Here is everything you need to know to ask for directions in French!

Start with “excusez-moi”

Before asking for directions, make sure you start your sentence with “excusez-moi”.

Otherwise, people will think you’re rude and are unlikely to help you.

Once you said “excusez-moi”, you can use one of the following sentences:

7 ways to ask for directions in French

directions in French

Est-ce que vous savez où est

If there is only one sentence you should remember, it’s this one.

You can use it in any situation and only need to add the name of the place you’re looking for after “où” and “est”.

If you’ve a hard time pronouncing the whole sentence or want to go faster (something the French do a lot when they speak), you can simply say “où est” followed by the name of the place.

  • Est-ce que vous savez où est le musée d’Orsay ? (do you know where the Orsay museum is?)
  • Où est le métro le plus proche ? (where is the nearest subway station?)
  • Où est la gare ? (where is the train station?)

Où sont

“Où est” is a great and simple way to ask for directions in French, but you can only use it if the name of the place you’re looking for is singular.

If it’s plural, you should use “où sont” instead.

  • Où sont les toilettes ? (where are the toilets?)
  • Est-ce que vous savez où sont les champs Elysées ? (do you know where the champs Elysées are?)

Où est-ce que je peux trouver

This is the perfect sentence if you’re lost in a French city and wonder where you can find a bank of an ATM.

  • Où est-ce que je peux trouver un distributeur de billets ? (where can I find an ATM?)

Est-ce qu’il y a…près d’ici

If you’re looking for something, but aren’t sure whether you can find it nearby or not, use “est-ce qu’il y a…près d’ici ?” (is there … near here?).

All you need to do is add the name of what you’re looking for between “il y a” and “près”.

  • Est-ce qu’il y a une banque près d’ici ? (Is there a bank nearby?)

How to ask how far a place is in French

is it far in french

Most of the time, if you’re looking for something that’s far, people will tell you:

  • C’est loin d’ici, mais il y a une station de métro pas loin d’ici (It’s far from here, but there is a subway station near here).

In some cases though, you may want to ask whether something is far or not. Here is how to do it:

Est-ce que c’est loin/proche?

This literally means “is it far/near?”.

  • Est-ce que le musée d’Orsay est loin d’ici ? (Is the Orsay museum far from here?)

Est-ce que je peux y aller à pied ?

You can use “est-ce que je peux y aller à pied” to ask if something is within walking distance.

How to understand directions in French

Have you ever asked for directions only to realise you’re completely unable to understand the answer?

That’s frustrating, but also completely avoidable if you learn the most common ways to indicate directions in French.

A droite: on the right

A gauche: on the left

Tout droit: straight

La première à droite: the first (street) on the right

La rue suivante: the next street

En face de: in front of

A côté de: next to

Au bout de la rue: at the end of the street

Where do you want to go?

It’s time for you to practice! Ask for directions in the comments below and get corrected! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, you are here to learn!

Photo credit: goodluz / 123RF Stock Photo

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Benjamin Houy

Benjamin Houy is a native French speaker and tea drinker with a BA degree in Applied Foreign Languages and a passion for languages. After teaching French and English in South Korea for 7 months as part of a French government program, he created French Together™ to help English speakers learn conversational French.