Directions and Location in Chinese (Part One) Posted by sasha on Jul 12, 2017 in grammar, Vocabulary
In our last post, we learned some useful Chinese for travelers. There were a few phrases about directions in there, but there’s lots more you’ll want to learn to be able to ask for and understand directions. We’re here to help you do just that. This first post will be a list of common places along with location words and how to use them. Hopefully it will help you better understand directions and locations in Chinese.
A List of Common Places
First up, here’s a list of 25 common places that you’ll find in most cities. This will come in handy whether you’re just traveling in China or if you end up living there.
fēi jī chǎng
cè suǒ/wèi shēng jiān
gōng jiāo chē zhàn
kā fēi guǎn
biàn lì diàn
jiā yóu zhàn
jiàn shēn fáng
lǚ guǎn/jiǔ diàn
zì zhù xǐyī fáng
tú shū guǎn
diàn yǐng yuàn
bó wù guǎn
shū bào tān
jǐng chá jú
cān tīng/fàn diàn
gòu wù zhòng xīn
huǒ chē zhàn
dòng wù yuán
Save that list or make some flashcards with it – whatever it takes to get you using and remembering those common places. Now let’s learn some words related to location that will be useful.
We’ll get into the nitty gritty for asking for and giving directions in Part Two. Phrases such as “go straight” and “turn left in 2 blocks” will be taught in that post. For now, we’re just going to focus on basic location words. Here are some of the most common location words you’ll use in Chinese:
When describing the location of places, you’ll usually have to add one of two characters after the location word:
Here are a few examples of how you use these to describe a location:
in front of (前面 – qián miàn)
to the north of (北边 – běi bian)
outside (外边 – wài bian)
inside (里面 – lǐ miàn)
Basically, you can use either/or for all of the words above. It’s not always necessary, but you might as well get used to using them. In spoken Chinese it’s rare to add either of these characters to 上 or 下. Generally speaking, though, it doesn’t matter which one you use. People will understand you either way.
A Few Special Cases
There are a few other words we can learn here that are special cases:
beside/next to (旁边 – páng biān)
opposite (对面 – duì miàn)
in the middle (中间 – zhōng jiān)
These only use one or the other and you can’t mix them up. For example, people don’t say 旁面 or 中边.
Now let’s look at a few Q&A examples asking for and giving the location of a place:
bó wù guǎn zài nǎ lǐ
Where is the museum?
bó wù guǎn zài jiǔ diàn páng biān
The museum is next to the hotel.
yín háng zài nǎ lǐ
Where is the bank?
yín háng zài yī yuàn duì miàn
The bank is opposite the hotel.
dòng wù yuán zài nǎ lǐ
Where is the zoo?
dòng wù yuán zài gōng yuán lǐ miàn
The zoo is inside the park.
Hopefully you can see the sentence structure at work through those three examples. Go ahead and try to translate a few on your own using the vocabulary we’ve already learned:
Where is the restaurant?
It’s in front of the library.
Where is the cinema?
It’s north of the supermarket.
Where is the police station?
It’s left of the gas station.
Once you’ve got this formula down and you’ve memorized the places and location words, you’ll be well on your way. In the next post, we’ll look at more detailed directions that will be useful when taking a cab or asking people on the street if you’re lost.