Chinese first language here, but since I've lived outside of China since I was little I'm completely out of touch with this kind of culture. Does China have stuff like this? I know you can call someone "A-叔叔" or something like that, but say you're in high school and you want to address a friend, girlfriend, teacher, or stranger. What would you call them, their whole name, or first name, or last name (like they do in Japanese) or add a suffix (like -kun or -san in Japanese, okay I watched some anime okay? Fine are you happy now)?


3 Answers 3


How do you address someone with their name in Chinese?

Same as English

  1. By titles

李先生 = Mr. Lee

李太太 = Mrs. Lee

李小姐 = Miss Lee

李女仕 = Ms. Lee

李醫生 = Dr. Lee

李老師 = Mister Lee ( teacher)

李主席 = Chairman Lee

李教練 = Coach Lee

李爵士 = Sir Lee

李公爵 = Duke Lee

  1. By age and gender ( not blood-related)

李叔叔 = Uncle Lee

李姨姨 / 李阿姨 = Aunt Lee

(李)兄 ( less formal than "Mr. / Mister". For men slightly older than you )


(李)師傅 = Master Lee ( a polite address for master of any field or any accomplished craftsmen)

*There are too many to list. But basically, you can't go wrong with the first four on the list. (Mr./ Mrs. /Miss /MS.)


1.Usually we would call them by their Surname.
Ex: 王先生 (Mr. Wang), 黃叔叔(Uncle Huang, can also be used for anyone around your father's age), 黃阿姨(Aunt Huang, can also be used for those around your mom's age), 王小姐(Ms. Huang), 馬媽媽(Mother Ma)

2.For those who have an academic degree, or if they hold high positions in a company, we use their profession or position. Gender pronouns are irrelevant here.
Ex: 賴醫師(Dr. Lai), 林老師(Teacher Lin), 柯主任(Manager/Director Ko), 周董(CEO Chou, Jay Chou's nickname)

3a. For those closer to us, we call them by their nick names, these are given or adopted when they were young and they just decided to continue using them. Nicknames usually start with their Surnames but sometimes uses a character in their full name depending on how smooth it sounds. These are usually used with 小A, B哥, C姊.
Ex: 小汪 (Little Wong), 馬哥(Brother Ma), 瑄姊(Sister Hsuan, full name might be something like 許紋瑄, but 許姊 sounds off)

3b. Other times we just call them by their given name. 浩平 (Full name might be 王浩平).

4.Then there are "catch all nicknames" used in school and in the work place like 學長(Senior for males), 學姊(Senior for females), 學弟 (Junior for males, 學妹( Junior for females).

Note: Chinese culture is heavily influenced by hierarchy. Even among friends, 哥 and 姊 is usually referred to those who are older.

  • 1
    學弟 (Junior for males), 學妹( Junior for females) -- these terms usually don't go with names or used directly addressing the person. A junior student would address a senior student as (X)學長 or (X)學姊, but (X)學長 or (X)學姊 does not address a junior schoolmate as (Y)學弟, just referring them as such to a third party.
    – Tang Ho
    Oct 17, 2016 at 4:26
  • Yes, I agree. Interestingly, the 學弟 and 學妹 do not get their surnames added in. While 學長 and 學姊 occasionally get addressed as (X)學長 or (X)學姊. Oct 17, 2016 at 8:24

I'm not a native speaker, but I've lived in China for a good while. (In 浙江, I should note, so someone from farther north or farther south might have different but equally valid answers.) I'll try to respond to your specific questions as well as I can based on my experience. You said "say you're in high school", so I'm going to give advice that I think would be appropriate for a high schooler:

1 Addressing a friend

In my experience, friends tend to call each other by nickname, given name or full name, with a strong preference for nicknames. Sometimes the given name might be followed by 哥 or 姐, if the person is a bit older or superior in some respect.

Even now, I don't know many of my wife's friends' full names because she never says them, using nicknames instead. What method people choose sometimes depends on features of the name, as well. For example, my wife's given name is just one character, and it's not a character that sounds good when repeated, so her friends and relatives tend to call her by her full name, defaulting to that since she has no nickname and calling her just by her given name sounds weird.

2 Girlfriend

Not having been in China at the girlfriend-having age and not having eavesdropped on any young couples, I'll abstain on this one.

3 Teacher

Surname + 老师。 Can't miss with that one, though I should note that sometimes people will use the title 老师 for people who aren't actually teachers, so watch out for that.

4 Stranger

This is where it gets tricky. It depends on age and authority, and I mess up with great frequency. Here's the chart I try to keep in my head.

Parents' generation: 阿姨,叔叔
Between parents' generation and grandparents' generation: 伯伯, 嬷嬷
Grandparents generation: 爷爷,奶奶 (姥姥 up north) (I only ever really hear young kids being asked to address people in this way. I'm in my 30s, and I don't think I'd probably address a 90-year-old this way.)

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