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In Spanish, how would you say "to ask for directions?"

I think it would be "Preguntar por direcciones".



Research I have done

In researching this, I see a lot of conflicting information.

Google

Preguntar por direcciones does appear a lot when searching on Google. It does not appear on Google Ngram viewer, which is a good sign that it may not be common.

Spanish Dict

Spanish dict lists it as pedir indicaciones. However, as an English speaker, that sounds more to me like to to ask/to order instructions. Indeed, searching for that phrase on Google does turn up articles about instructions rather than directions.

Word Reference

Word Reference has two threads on this: Thread 1 Thread 2

The opinions shared in these threads are mixed. Some say direcciones and instructions are interchangeable. Others says they are not.

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    You might want to consider pedir direcciones as well. – mdewey Aug 26 at 15:59
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    Just to be careful, direction and dirección are false cognates, direction means command, while dirección means address – Andrés Chandía Sep 1 at 19:20
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The grammatically closest translation would be "Pedir indicaciones", but the most common way (in Spanish from Spain) is "Preguntar cómo ir/llegar".

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  • Preguntar cómo ir and Preguntar cómo llegar would these be understood outside of Spain or are they unique to the region only. – big_smile Aug 26 at 16:17
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    @big_smile preguntar cómo llegar will work everywhere – DGaleano Aug 26 at 16:43
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Well, in Spanish we would say "pedir indicaciones". It is the most common way in my opinion and perfectly correct. You wouldn't say "preguntar por direcciones" considering that you are expecting instructions on how to arrive to the address you are going to. Remember "dirección" is a false friend as it isn't the same as "direction" unless you are talking about "dirección" as a synonym of "rumbo" (What direction "dirección" are you heading? North). It is quite tricky indeed. But the translation for "dirección" would actually be "address". So unless you want an address, you ask for instructions on how to arrive to an address in Spanish.

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I don't know what your intended usage is, but the translation may not be as direct. (Or, atleast I want to bring in my feeling of a bit of a cultural difference there, something I experienced first hand— when temporary living in the US— around the issue of receiving directions.

Having to go to someone's place, the request in English would be

Can you give me directions?

Whereas in my native country (Argentina), you would rather ask

¿cual es tu dirección? [as for final addresss]

or, more informally

¿donde queda tu casa? (Or ¿dónde vivís?)

The subtle difference is that while we too could request for the guidance [directives], saying

¿Como hago para llegar? (Pasame las indicaciones [tell me how to get there])

It is less common for us to ask in such a way.

Rather than asking for instructions —to be guided to a place—, we normally request the final address where we are heading to (via cuál es la dirección [which is the address?]). That's probably why I found myself (culturally) more comfortable with a final address, —the destination's co-ordinates— rather than the steps (algorithm) necessary to reach a place. I don't know, one could speculate, the probable reason may lay in the different characteristics of our cities? While in the United States they spread out into suburbs, with more variations in street shapes; many Spanish-based cities were laid out as square orthogonal numbered blocks, into a more predictable grid, and with less specifications needed.

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    Off topic, but regarding co-ordinates vs algorithm for an unknown location, I also prefer the co-ordinates. And then let my GPS figure out how to get there. – Peter M Aug 27 at 14:01
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    @PeterM, exactly, we need clarity on the target first, details could follow, but —depending the way they are given— they could add noise and overwhelm the recipient's attention (turning them of no value if you get just part and not the whole recipe) – ipp Aug 27 at 14:27
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    I think the question is "how to say «to ask for directions»" and this answers how to ask for directions. Did I misunderstand it? – DGaleano Aug 27 at 19:34

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