Asking for directions in English

A very common problem people have when asking for directions in English is sounding rude. In my hometown in Brazil, for example, it is often annoying - but equally acceptable - to touch a complete stranger on their shoulder and say:

"Where is ... street?"


"How can I get to...?"

Well, in English speaking countries, it is not. We need to remember about two crucial things:

1) Remember you are the one interrupting the person to do you a favor. Therefore, you need to say excuse me and please, as well as smile (yes, smile! And you don't need to mean it..). Say:

"EXCUSE ME, where is ... street PLEASE?"


"EXCUSE ME, How can I get to ... PLEASE?"

2) If you want to be extra polite, you may as well say:

"Can you tell me... please?" if you think the person knows the answer


"Do you know... please?" if you think they might not. 

TIP: When you start a request like that, remember to change the position of verbs and remove auxiliaries:

"Excuse me, can you tell me where ...street  IS please?" or "Excuse me, do you know where ... street IS, please?"

"Excuse me, can you tell me how I CAN get to... please?" or "Excuse me, do you know how I CAN get to..., please?"

Good luck with your travels!


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