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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.
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:
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.
There are a few other words we can learn here that are special cases:
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:
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:
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.