In my native language, we use a single idiomatic expression which means 'before you get to (a certain place)' when we give directions. That certain place is usually a landmark, a more well-known or an easier-to-find place than the one we're giving directions to.

As an example (I'm translating word for word, not sure if it's OK to use in English)

Go straight ahead, turn right on Lincoln St., before you get to the post office, it's on your right.

(it's not necessarily next to the post office, but it's definitely before you get there)

Go straight ahead, before you get to Main St, you'll see it.

(it's not on the corner, by the way)

Here, we're not exactly giving the location, but showing the approximate whereabouts by talking about another location which is known by many people and easier to find.

Is there an idiomatic word or phrase in English that can be used here? If not, how do we normally say it in English?

3 Answers 3


It's perfectly acceptable and understood to say in English:

"...before you get to Main St. it will be on your right," or, "...it will be on your right before you get to Lincoln St."

Often, however, we use the opposite side:

"If you get to Main St., you've gone too far."

  • 2
    I hate it when that happens...
    – user3169
    Mar 3, 2016 at 22:21
  • 1
    @Azar, the reason for using the opposite way is that if you are not familiar with the area, you have no way of knowing how close you are to being at "before you get to XYZ", so the "before" way of saying it isn't very helpful. Consider that when you start out on your journey, you're "before you get to XYZ", and then you go a little ways, and you're still "before you get to XYZ"...
    – shoover
    Mar 4, 2016 at 1:07

Your use of "before" this way is perfectly correct English, and fully idiomatic.

As a matter of style, for giving maximally clear directions, I would suggest always positioning a "before you get to" clause after the statement of where the thing is. So where you gave the example:

Go straight ahead, before you get to Main St, you'll see it

I would recommend:

Go straight ahead; you'll see it before you get to Main Street.

We also use the expression "a little before" to indicate something on the near side of a landmark:

Go straight ahead; it's a little before Main Street.


I would write:

Go straight ahead, turn right on Lincoln St., heading toward the post office. Then it's on your right.

I moved the it's to a new sentence and also added then. This separation helps to make it clear that "it's" refers to the destination, not the post office.

And likewise:

Go straight ahead, heading toward Main St. You'll see it.

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