This is a sentence I wrote on WeChat to another teacher at Nankai University:

But I'm not a student. I'm a teacher at Nankai University.
(Kěshì wǒ bùshì yīgè xuéshēng. Wǒ shì Nánkāi Dàxué de jiàoshī.)

I'm worried that saying 南开大学 instead of the shortened version 南大 (Nándà) is too formal. (Analogous to saying 中华人民共和国 "The People's Republic of China" instead of simply 中国 "China".)

Question: Is it overly formal to say 南开大学 instead of its abbreviation 南大 to people at 南开大学?

I asked some Chinese friends, but I didn't get a precise response. They pointed out that 南大 is often used as an abbreviation for 南京大学 (Nánjīng Dàxué) "Nanjing University" (nowhere near Nankai University, in Tianjin), but when two people are actually at 南开大学, there's not much of a risk of confusion.

  • I never heard 南开大学 abbreviated as 南大. The short form I heard is 南开.
    – fefe
    Sep 28 '17 at 1:10
  • My friends suggest that to locals of Tianjin, 南大 is a common abbreviation, whereas 南开 may be too ambiguous, since there's also 南开中学 and 南开小学. In any case, the same question would apply to the abbreviation 南开.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Sep 28 '17 at 1:21
  • @Becky李蓓 so it's 南开 for the rest of the world then. People don't travel across the country to attend 中学 and 小学 so they are practically unknown to the outside. Sep 28 '17 at 1:23
  • FWIW, 南大 is common both at the university and in Tianjin generally. Notwithstanding the Wiki note linked below.
    – bp.
    Sep 28 '17 at 5:48
  • You'd better speak the full name. The short form is ambiguous, usually used in a small circle. If you are talking to the students from other university or native in your city, they know that the real school you are talking about.
    – xenophōn
    Sep 29 '17 at 5:58

Unlike 中华人民共和国, the name of “南开大学” does not carry that level of formalness. It is alright to use it in conversation.

And the short form of "南开大学" is usually "南开", at least that is the one I always heard. You can use "南开" to make it more casual. This is what we often use to refer to "南开大学" in conversation.

(The wikipedia page of 南开大学 has such a note:



And by the way, in casual talk, I would use "老师" instead of "教师"


It wouldn't be confusing if you say 南大 in 南开大学 and the same thing as you say it in 南京大学, although 南开 is well-known across the country. In a formal register, apparently you should use the full version.

Besides the formality, stating 南开大学 is more clear than 南大.

What you have put is good, because sometimes you have to be a bit formal in order to clarify ambiguities.

Another casual way to express in this case is that if you WeChat another teacher, he/she is supposed to know you belong to the school and just unsure whether you are actually a student or teacher. You could simple put (可是)我不是学生,我是老师。.


Unless you friend(or stranger) has zero idea about the "南大" you're about to refer, I will go for "南大";

But if your friend basically does not follow the "南大", which he/she might thought it was “南京大学”.... “南*大学”, "南开大学" is fine.

2 words vs 4 words. Not verbose at all. Don't be lazy mate

Easter egg: abbreviate this one : "Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons."


Your analogy does make some sense. People who study or work in the same university rarely use its full name when they talk to each other. But I don't think it's big deal here. I think one thing you could improve is to remove '一个' from your sentence. That could be more of an issue than the abbreviation.

Other answers focus on what '南大' is short for because that's always an interesting topic. People made a lot of jokes of abbreviations of universities on Internet. But that's not the key point here.


There are two questions

1 Whether you can use 南大 as a shorthand for 南开大学 IN the uni. For this one, you have to ask people from the uni, or observe what term they use. Outside the uni, you can't. 南大 is mostly associated with 南京大学, and as @fefe said, you should you 南开

2 Whether it is overly formal to use the full name. I think it is, under informal situations. And chatting on Wechat is likely informal. So yes, you should use whatever shorthand your group agrees to use.


Stop stealing our name!


When your university discovers a new asteroid, you can't call it 南大 that name is taken!


  • giggles I had no idea asking this question would be so political. (:
    – Becky 李蓓
    Sep 29 '17 at 0:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.