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When I asked for the directions to the HR's cubicle, I got this reply:

Go down the hall then take the first left, You will find the HR's cubicle there.

(I don't remember exactly what he said.)

I am assuming by down the hall he meant to go straight and then take a left.

Can I apply the same logic for streets and roads while giving the directions?

Go down the road and then take a left.

I would really appreciate if someone can explain the meaning of the phrase "down the hall" in this context.

  • I'm not sure what you're implying by "he meant to go straight into the hall." The speaker is using exactly the same construction as he would if you were outside, and he was talking about going down the road or street rather than hall. And although we wouldn't often say it anyway, Go [straight] into the street doesn't mean the same thing as Go [straight] down the street. – FumbleFingers Sep 23 '18 at 17:25
  • Note that up / down in such contexts doesn't necessarily have anything to do with any change in elevation, and unless the road / street / hallway floor is exceptionally steeply inclined, different speakers will often almost randomly choose between those two prepositions. – FumbleFingers Sep 23 '18 at 17:29
  • @FumbleFingers what exactly does that phrase mean "down the road". Does "Go down the road" mean "Go straight"? and is it common phrase? – lea Sep 24 '18 at 17:54
  • Often it's just a matter of saying that the structure of to go up / down / along the [road / street / path / etc]. requires a preposition in the highlighted position. Other than that, it doesn't necessarily "mean" much at all. But note that it's never syntactically necessary to include the word straight - that just adds a kind of "emphasis" (immediately and/or without deviating). – FumbleFingers Sep 25 '18 at 11:48
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Down the hall just means along the hall. Sometimes, a speaker will have in their own mind which way is down and which way is up, and sometimes they'll just use down or up randomly, arbitrarily, or always using the same one regardless of direction.

Me, I tend to think of down a hallway as being the direction away from the entrance or main hall or similar, going "down into the depths" of a building, and up is back towards the central areas of the building. I have no idea how many people think like that.

  • FWIW, my wife says that to her, "up" is towards the nearest 'end' of the hallway or corridor, and "down" is away from it. As long as there's an end pretty close, anyway. – SamBC Mar 23 at 19:43
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People giving road directions routinely say 'take a left or right' to indicate a deviation into another road or street.

take a left
(also hang a left American English)
to turn left
Take the next left (=turn left at the next road).

Take a left (Longmans)

  • Perhaps I'm suffering from false memory, but it seems to me I can clearly recall navigators / passengers telling me to Hang a left / right here! before 1970 here in SE UK. But the first cite in OED (1967) is actually only "indirect" anyway: * Evening Standard 26 July 13/3 If you're in your pig [sc. car, in Detroit] and you ‘hang a Louie’, you've just turned left. If you ‘hang a Ralph’, it's a right turn, ‘hang a Sam’ is go straight and ‘hang a Ulysses’ means make a U-turn* (their first "real" one is a 1975 CB slang dictionary). But they do say colloq. (orig. and chiefly U.S.) – FumbleFingers Sep 23 '18 at 17:41
  • Living in Dulwich, SE London, (not the posh part) I certainly heard it in American films & TV shows before around 1975. Transpondial osmosis being what it is, it's pretty likely it was used in Britain around then. – Michael Harvey Sep 23 '18 at 18:05
  • Yeah, well I suppose I was a "slightly rebellious" adolescent back in the late 60s, which probably meant me & my peers were a bit inclined to grab some of our "alternative / subversive" vocabulary from America (anything to seperate ourselves off from our parent's generation). As I recall, we used to call a half-crown coin (2s 6d) a half-dollar (which even back then was stretching the exchange rate to breaking point and beyond! :) – FumbleFingers Sep 24 '18 at 14:28
  • Half a dollar for half a crown was Cockney/street slang way before the 60s. From the 1930s to the early 1960s, a US dollar was worth around 5 shillings; hence the rhyming slang "Oxford (scholar)" for that sum. – Michael Harvey Sep 24 '18 at 16:08
  • Ty - I didn't know that. Many people would say I'm a Cockney myself, even though I've never actually lived in London at all - let alone within earshot of Bow Bells. But I swear even today I still learn the original Cockney rhyme for some familiar turn of phrase thing several times a month. Mainly from a globe-trotting friend who really is a dyed-in-the-wool Cockney. As you can imagine, facing constant blank looks from people he talks to abroad and having a smartphone, he's got into the habit of Googling the origin for anything he doesn't already know (and telling me later). – FumbleFingers Sep 24 '18 at 16:53

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