bathroom-in-different-languages

How to Ask Where the Bathroom Is in 9 Languages

When you need to go, you usually don’t want to fumble around with a translator or dictionary.

You won’t always have unlimited time to find the right phrase and perfect your pronunciation. Memorizing words and phrases is an ideal solution to ensure you’re ready whenever the need strikes.

You would probably prefer to avoid asking awkwardly. If you haven’t prepared the right phrase, you may stumble on your words, misuse words or just seem nervous and weird. Ask wrong, and your face may flush as much as the toilet. Funny language mistakes can be excellent learning opportunities, but when your bladder is full, you’re not really in the mood for laughing about your foibles just yet.

Contents

  • And One More Thing...
  • Know Before You Go! Bathroom Vocab in 9 Different Languages

    Herein lie key words and phrases to help you navigate the challenging world of bathroom-based inquiries across languages.

    Between languages, there are some distinct commonalities that you might want to note. This will make learning key phrases in multiple languages easier.

    One common theme you might notice is that in some languages, it’s more common to ask where the toilet is than where the bathroom is. To native English speakers, this might seem a little direct and even uncouth, but it’s common in many parts of the world. This is in part because in some locations, the toilet is in a separate room from the bathroom, so it’s sometimes important to make the distinction to clarify what exactly you want to use. Plus, when you think about it, do you really want strangers thinking you’re asking to use their bathtub? That’s probably even more awkward than just asking to use the toilet.

    It’s also important to note that in most languages, there are several ways to get across the main idea of “Where is the bathroom?” and “May I use the bathroom?” In many languages, there are even several words for “bathroom” and “toilet.” We’ve focused on some of the most common words and phrases. However, if variety is the spice of life for you when it comes to your bathroom vocabulary, don’t hesitate to research additional ways to say these pressing phrases in your target language.

    We realize that the list below may not cover all the languages you need, but it will give you vocabulary for a good chunk of common languages, and also a starter template for doing your own bathroom research in whatever other languages you anticipate using.

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    Chinese

    浴室 (yù shì) — bathroom

    厕所 (cè suǒ) — toilet

    The above term can also be used to mean “WC” or “lavatory.”

    卫生间在哪里? (wèi shēng jiān zài nǎ lǐ?) — Where is the restroom?

    The above phrase translates more literally to “Where is the hygiene room?”

    我可以用洗手间吗? (wǒ kě yǐ yòng xǐ shǒu jiān má ?) — May I use the toilet?

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    French

    Salle de bains — bathroom

    Toilettes — toilet

    Toilettes is actually plural, but is frequently used to refer to the porcelain throne. Toilette (singular) is often used to refer to washing, dressing, cleaning, etc.

    Excusez-moi, où se trouvent les toilettes ? — Where is the bathroom?

    More literally, “Excuse me, where are the toilets?”

    Puis-je utiliser les toilettes ? — May I use the bathroom?

    Literally, “Can I use the toilets?”

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    German

    Badezimmer — bathroom

    Toilette — toilet

    Wo ist die Toilette? — Where is the bathroom?

    More literally, “Where is the toilet?”

    Könnte ich das Badezimmer benutzen? — May I use the bathroom?

    Italian

    Bagno — bathroom

    Bagno can also refer to a “bath” or a “toilet.”

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    Gabinetto — toilet

    Gabinetto can also mean “bathroom” or “cabinet.”

    Dov’è il bagno? — Where is the bathroom?

    Posso usare il bagno? — May I use the bathroom?

    Japanese

    バスルーム — bathroom

    トイレ — toilet

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    トイレ can also be used to mean “bathroom.”

    トイレはどこですか? — Where is the bathroom?

    トイレを借りてもいいですか? — May I use the bathroom? (Pronounced “Toire o karite mo īdesu ka?”)

    Korean

    욕실 화장실 — bathroom

    화장실 — toilet

    화장실 can also be used to mean “restroom.”

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    화장실 어디 있어요? — Where is the bathroom?

    화장실을 사용해도 될까요? — May I use the bathroom? (Pronounced “Hwajangsil-eul sayonghaedo doelkkayo?”)

    Portuguese

    Banheiro — bathroom

    Banheiro can also be used to mean “toilet.”

    Toaletetoilet

    Onde fica o banheiro? Where is the bathroom?

    Posso usar o banheiro? — May I use the bathroom?

    Russian

    Ванная — bathroom

    Ванная usually means “bathroom” but can also mean “toilet” in a private home.

    Туалет — toilet

    Туалет can also mean “restroom.”

    Где туалет? — Where is the bathroom?

    More literally, “Where is the toilet?”

    Можно я зайду в туалет? — May I use the bathroom?

    More literally, “Can drop by the toilet?”

    Spanish

    Baño — bathroom

    Baño can actually refer to “bathroom,” “bath,” “bathtub” or “toilet.”

    Inodoro — toilet

    In Spanish, you more often hear baño, but if you ever want to discuss the fixture itself, you can use inodoro. Inodoro can also technically be used to refer to a bathroom, though it’s not particularly common. Curiously enough, when used as an adjective, it can also mean “odorless.” Ironic.

    ¿Dónde está el baño?Where is the bathroom?

    ¿Puedo usar el baño? — May I use the bathroom?

    Tips for Learning Bathroom Phrases

    1. Practice saying these phrases out loud.

    As with any new vocabulary in your target language, you have to say the phrases out loud. You want native speakers to actually understand your query so you can get on with your business.

    Do some language shadowing, repeat the phrases over and over again—just make sure you practice the bathroom phrases enough until they roll off your tongue. Plus, this extra practice will definitely boost your confidence when the time comes that you actually have to ask where the toilet is.

    2. Record the phrases on your phone.

    These are a couple of reasons why these voice recordings will come in handy.

    Firstly, it will allow you to compare your own pronunciation to that of a native speaker. This is also ideal for those who don’t have access to or feel intimidated by native feedback since this allows you to adjust your accent and pronunciation without any added pressure. Plus, these voice notes will be readily available whenever you need to practice.

    Secondly, these recordings can be played as a last resort, in case the locals have trouble interpreting what you’re trying to say.

    3. Find examples of how these phrases are used in real contexts.

    If you want to get a feel of how these phrases would be incorporated in a dialogue, it’s highly recommended that you watch and listen to native conversations. That way, nothing gets lost in translation, and you also learn additional vocabulary associated with bathroom phrases, such as directions, saying “please” and “thank you” and much more.

    Tutors and language exchange partners can offer guidance on such conversations, but you can also easily find authentic examples online. FluentU is one tool that can give you that insight.

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    So be prepared. Know before you go.

    Don’t let a trip to the bathroom ruin your day or stall your language confidence.

    With these helpful phrases, you’ll be ready whenever and wherever you need to go.

    And One More Thing...

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