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Directions and Location in Chinese (Part One) Posted by 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

Directions and Location in Chinese (Part One)

北海公园 (Beihai Park)

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.

airport

bank

bar

bathroom

bus station

cafe

convenience store

gas station

gym

hospital

hotel

laundromat

library

movie theater

museum

newsstand

park

phamaracy

police station

restaurant

school

shopping mall

supermarket

train station

zoo

飞机场

银行

酒吧

厕所/卫生间

公交车站

咖啡馆

便利店

加油站

健身房

醫院

旅馆/酒店

自助洗衣房

图书馆

电影院

博物馆

书报摊

公园

药店

警察局

餐厅/饭店

学校

购物中心

超市

火车站

动物园

fēi jī chǎng

yín háng

jiǔ bā

cè suǒ/wèi shēng jiān

gōng jiāo chē zhàn

kā fēi guǎn

biàn lì diàn

jiā yóu zhàn

jiàn shēn fáng

yī yuàn

lǚ guǎn/jiǔ diàn

zì zhù xǐyī fáng

tú shū guǎn

diàn yǐng yuàn

bó wù guǎn

shū bào tān

gōng yuán

yào diàn

jǐng chá jú

cān tīng/fàn diàn

xué xiào

gòu wù zhòng xīn

chāo shì

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.

Location Words

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:

on/above
under/below
in front
behind
right
left
in
out
east
west
north
south










西

shàng
xià
qián
hòu
yòu
zuǒ

wài
dōng

běi
nán

When describing the location of places, you’ll usually have to add one of two characters after the location word:

边/面 (biān/miàn)

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.

Some Examples

Inside the National Museum.

Now let’s look at a few Q&A examples asking for and giving the location of a place:

博物馆在哪里?
bó wù guǎn zài nǎ lǐ
Where is the museum?

博物馆在酒店旁边
bó wù guǎn zài jiǔ diàn páng biān
The museum is next to the hotel.

银行在哪里?
yín háng zài nǎ lǐ
Where is the bank?

银行在医院对面
yín háng zài yī yuàn duì miàn
The bank is opposite the hotel.

动物园在哪里?
dòng wù yuán zài nǎ lǐ
Where is the zoo?

动物园在公园里面
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.

Read on for Part Two

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About the Author:sasha

Sasha is a teacher, student, writer, photographer, web designer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently planning a trip through Central/South America.


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