Spoken language interaction between humans and robots in natural environments will necessarily involve communication about space and distance. The current study examines people’s close-range route instructions for robots and how the presentation format (schematic, virtual or natural) and the complexity of the route affect the content of instructions. We find that people have a general preference for providing metric-based instructions. At the same time, presentation format appears to have less impact on the formulation of these instructions. We conclude that understanding of spatial language requires handling both landmark-based and metric-based expressions.