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Different Shapes of Road Signs

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Road signs provide a wealth of information that not only keeps us safer on our journeys, but also provides useful information.

Pictograms are used to allow us to absorb the subject matter quicker than if we have to read the information in text form, and the shape of the sign also tells its own story.

There are three basic shapes for road signs. There are actually another two but we will talk about those separately. The three main shapes are circles, triangles and rectangles or squares.  Each one of those shapes tells us something different.

Circular signs are mandatory, they give us orders. It´s easy to remember if we think of the “O” for orders. There are two different types of circular sign.

Circular signs with a red border tell us what we must NOT do. For example, no overtaking, no left turn, don´t go over the maximum speed indicates. Red circles tell us what we must NOT do.


Blue circles are the opposite, they tell us what we MUST do. For example, ahead only, turn right, switch on your lights, go around the roundabout in an anti- clockwise direction. Blue circles tell us what we MUST do.


Triangular signs are warnings. They give us advanced information of a hazard ahead, such as a pedestrian crossing, traffic lights, road narrows ahead. Triangles are warnings.


Rectangular or square signs are advisory or informative. They tell us something useful, such as the recommended maximum speed, no through road, or tunnel for example. Some of the signs indicate areas where mandatory rules also apply, such as signs indicating the start of a motorway, or on a one-way street or a bus lane, so it is important to know which ones are which.


By knowing these basic shapes it allows us to determine and process the information and the importance of what we are being told.

The other two shapes, which don´t fall into any of the other categories because of their uniqueness are the octagonal “Stop”, sign, an almost universal symbol, which is important because it is telling us to stop and give way, and the inverted triangle which is also unique as that sign is also telling us to give way to traffic on the major road. Both of the signs are mandatory and are two of the most important signs on the road.

Remember, circles are orders, triangles are warnings and squares and rectangles are advisory information. They are the three main shapes of road signs.

By the way, this principle is the same as in the UK, and many other countries too.

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