Your Guide to Up, Down, Left and Right in Spanish
Still trying to figure out what’s left and right in Spanish?
When you begin to learn another language, knowing essential vocabulary like basic directional words is key to surviving abroad.
Imagine you’re visiting Mexico City for the first time, and you ask someone where your hotel is. You understand when they say you need to turn ahead, but wait—did they say “left” or “right” in Spanish?
Mastering the usage of words like left and right in Spanish enhances your language comprehension and helps you travel with ease in Spanish-speaking countries.
¡Aprendamos las palabras direccionales!
Spatial Awareness in Spanish
Spatial words like up, down, left, and right in Spanish aren’t only important for giving and receiving directions, but also for everyday situations like asking where the coffee is or explaining which hand you write with.
Being able to describe the space around you is one of your first steps to basic survival in a Spanish-speaking region.
In this blog post, we’ll review multiple words for many types of situations.
Let’s start with how to say “left” and “right” in Spanish!
Key Words for Directions in Spanish
Whether you’re explaining to a taxi driver where you want to go or getting directions to the local café, these next couple of words are crucial to add to your Spanish vocabulary.
Left and Right in Spanish
In English, the words “left” and “right” mean multiple things. For example, “right” can be a direction, adjective, something that is correct, or a legal term.
Left and right in Spanish also have multiple meanings, but we’re going to start with the noun form for directions.
Left: la izquierda
Right: la derecha
Note that both of these directional words are feminine. Unless you’re using these words as adjectives (as in “right or left foot”), they’re always feminine.
Take Note! The gender of the word is important because derecho means something completely different. You can use it to mean “straight” or to refer to your personal or legal rights.
- Sigue derecho. (Continue straight.)
- Respeta mis derechos. (Respect my rights.)
When using left and right in Spanish to give directions, make sure to add a la (to the) before the directional word.
Gira a la derecha. (Turn right.)
Está allí a la izquierda. (It’s there, to the left.)
You can also add para la (to the) before left and right in Spanish. While para la and a la translate the same in English, para la signifies movement, while a la doesn’t necessarily imply movement.
Cuando llegues al final, ve hacia la izquierda. (When you reach the end, go left.)
Corran la mesa hacia la derecha. (Move the table to the right.)
Straight and Back in Spanish
While knowing how to say left and right in Spanish is important, you also need to know how to say straight and back.
If you are in a taxi and the driver passes your location, you need to be able to tell him, “no, no, it was back there.” Likewise, knowing how to say “straight ahead” will help you avoid unnecessary turns down winding roads.
Straight: recto, derecho
As we mentioned when talking about left and right in Spanish, derecho means two things:
- a legal right
- straight ahead
While derecho means “straight ahead” in all Spanish-speaking countries, you are likely to hear its synonym recto more often in Mexico and Central America.
In contrast to using a la for “left” and “right” in Spanish, you don’t use it for “straight” and “back.”
Sigue recto, por favor. (Continue straight, please.)
¿A la derecha? No, derecho. (To the right? No, straight.)
Hacia atrás, por favor. (Go back, please.)
¿Aquí? No, era más atrás. (Here? No, it was further back.)
Compass Directions in Spanish
Compass directions can help give highly specific directions, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area you’re in. For some people (like me), landmarks—like “by the tree” or “after the large church”—work better if you’re already familiar with the area. If you’re traveling to new Spanish-speaking regions, then compass directions are vital to know since many streets and cities are organized by compass directions.
North: el norte
South: el sur
East: el este, el oriente
West: el oeste, el poniente, el occidente
Just like left and right in Spanish are feminine, all the compass directions are masculine. Here are some different ways to use these directional words in Spanish.
Sigue hacia el norte. (Continue north.)
Quiero viajar al sur. (I want to travel to the south.)
With left and right in Spanish, you can use a la (to the) before the words. The same phrase applies to compass directions, but you must use el because they are masculine.
PRO TIP! Saying a el is incorrect. The double vowel sound makes that phrase difficult to pronounce, so instead use the contraction al.
You can also use the phrase hacia el to express motion. You can translate it as “towards” instead of “to,” since no one location represents the exact compass directions.
More Directional Words in Spanish
Giving and receiving instructions to travel isn’t the only reason to learn directional words in Spanish. You will also need other words like “up,” “in,” and “below” to describe the physical locations of objects.
Up and Down in Spanish
When we talk about up and down in Spanish, we are referring to vertical locations. You can also use them in simple instructions, like “go upstairs.”
Él está arriba. (He is upstairs.)
Vamos hacia abajo. (Let’s go down/downstairs.)
¿Vas haciaarriba o hacia abajo? (Are you going up or down?)
Above and Below in Spanish
Above: encima de, sobre, arriba de
Below: abajo de, debajo de
Above and below give much more detail to an object’s location in relation to something else. Since these words are always followed by another, most of the Spanish phrases have the preposition de at the end to connect them to that other word.
Since encima de and sobre can also both mean “on,” you can use arriba de for things that are not physically touching another object.
El microondas está arriba de la estufa. (The microwave is above the stove.)
El lápiz está abajo de la mesa. (The pencil is below the table.)
In and Out in Spanish
In: dentro de, en
Both dentro de and en mean “in,” but the phrase dentro de has a closer meaning to “inside.”
Likewise, afuera can mean both “out” and “outside.”
Ella está en la tienda. (She is in the store.)
El gato está dentro de la caja. (The cat is in/inside the box.)
Dejamos la mochila afuera en el jardín. (We left the backpack out in the garden.)
Está afuera. (It’s outside.)
Helpful Phrases for Giving and Receiving Instructions
Take your Spanish directional skills to the next level with these useful phrases!
This way: por aquí, por acá
That way: por allí, por allá
Around the corner: a la vuelta de la esquina, doblando la esquina, a la vuelta
At the edge of: en el borde de, al borde de
At the intersection: en la intersección, en el cruce
At the end of: al tope, al final
Next to: a la par de, junto a, al lado de
Near: cerca de
In front of: enfrente de
Across the street from: enfrente de, al otro lado de la calle de
Adjacent to: adyacente a, junto a
Turn around: voltea, date la vuelta
Go back: regresa, ve para atrás
Continue: sigue, continúa
With these useful Spanish directional words, you will be able to navigate Spanish-speaking cities and towns more easily.
Before you travel, make sure you can use these words with ease by practicing with a native Spanish speaker. Sign up for a free trial class today with one of Homeschool Spanish Academy’s incredible teachers, and you’ll find yourself speaking Spanish after just one class.
¡Vamos a aprender español!
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