Regarding 男朋友 and 男性朋友(or 男的朋友), I don't understand how to use these words appropriately. At least I understand that 男朋友 can mean both "boyfriend" and "male friend" and the meaning depends on the context, and 男性朋友 means "male friend".

However, what I don’t get about these words is:

  • 男朋友 means both "boyfriend" and "male friend". Can 男性朋友 also mean "boyfriend" as well as "male friend"?

  • Are 男性朋友 and 男的朋友 synonyms?

  • If you have multiple "boyfriends" or "male friends", how would you express this?

  • If a man uses "男朋友", does this mean he is gay? Or does this always mean "male friend"? (and would there some other word to express "boyfriend in a gay relationship"?

  • Are all of the above the same in the case of 女朋友/女性朋友?

  • 男朋友 can be (is often) shortened to 男友, in fact jukuu has full 100 samples
    – user6065
    Sep 28, 2017 at 23:23

6 Answers 6


男朋友 mean both "boyfriend" and "male friend". Can 男性朋友 also mean "boyfriend" as well as "male friend"?

No, "男朋友" means 'boyfriend' exclusively. For both men and women.

A woman would refer to her male friends as "男性朋友" or "朋友"

A man would refer to his female friends as "女性朋友" or "朋友"

Most of the time men and women just use the unisex term "朋友"

Are 男性朋友 and 男的朋友 the synonym?


If you have multiple "boyfriends" or "male friends", how do you express?

If you have multiple "boyfriends", they are all your "男朋友"

If you have multiple "male friends", they are all your "男性朋友" or "朋友"

If a man uses "男朋友", does this mean he is a gay? Or does this always mean "male friend"? (and is there any other word to express "boyfriend for gay"?

If a man calls someone "男朋友", that means he is his 'same sex partner', and yes, they are gay.

Are all the above the same in the case of 女朋友/女性朋友?

No, women sometimes call their female friends "女朋友", but usually just "朋友" ; Men never call their male friends "男朋友"

Women do not call their female friends as "女性朋友"

Men do not call their male friends "男朋友" or "男性朋友" , they just call them "朋友"

In summary

  • Men and women usually call their friends "朋友".

  • "男朋友" to a man (in a gay relationship) or a woman, means "boyfriend"

  • "女朋友" to a man, can only mean "girlfriend"

  • "女朋友" for a woman, can mean "girlfriend" (in a lesbian relationship) or "female friend" (in joking manner)


I think this is a real cultural topic other than language itself.

In order to apply those terms well, first, you should build up a Chinese perspective about homosexuality. Basically, homosexuality is really unusual in China. Most of time people only make jokes on it. In fact, I haven't seen a real case in all of places I lived. I've only seen it on TV shows and movies.

With that in mind, here is some usage guidelines:

  1. people tend to use 朋友 for ordinary friends, just like saying my friend, his friend.
  2. If it's necessary to indicate the gender of your friend, you could put 男的朋友,女的朋友,男性朋友,女性朋友, or you could put two sentences for the introduction 这是我朋友,他是男的 or 她是女的.
  3. 男朋友 and 女朋友 are often used as an indication of the relationship. They are equivalents of boyfriend and girlfriend separately.
  4. If a man says someone is his 男朋友 or a girl says someone is her 女朋友, my first impression is that he/she is joking (basically they are just ordinary close friends from my perspective) unless they explain that kind of relationship in later conversations. If they say it seriously, I will ask 【你们真的是那种(同性恋)关系吗?】to check if that relationship is really true. This is because that kind of relationship is really unusual in China.
  • 1
    > because that kind of relationship is really unusual in China. < It is not unusual, just people don't usually talk about it in the open
    – Tang Ho
    Sep 29, 2017 at 0:13
  • I don't have that kind of data to approve. But from anyone I know, I haven't met one so far in many years.
    – dan
    Sep 29, 2017 at 0:37
  • @TangHo True. To dan: you should meet/deal with more gay people in China.
    – Kevman
    Sep 29, 2017 at 5:39

@dan has explained a lot. One thing I would like to add is that in some context girls use '女朋友' to refer to ordinary female friends instead of '女的朋友' or '女性朋友' especially in recent years. For example, they may say '我的一个女朋友'. It's safe to use '女朋友' here. There is no ambiguity because of the word '一个'. Anyway I never hear males speak this way.

  1. In Chinese, no such word like “男的朋友".

  2. For boyfriend/girlfriend, I think the usage today is 99% similar to how US people use.

You're safe to refer any good friend as your boyfriend/girlfriends in your gang. (Of course this is more popular in the youth, sorry elder)

And in China nowadays, you're safe to do the same thing just like American, as long as you don't have any people misunderstood. (IN YOUR GANG!)

But what if you meet a stranger or you're in a professional circumstances, now you need "male/female friend", just like “男/女性友人”。

  • Sometimes, people does use 男的朋友 to clarify 'male friend' in daily usage. In formal settings, 男性朋友 is often used. And I never heard people use 男朋友 among male friends. 他是我男朋友 sounds awkward, unless you are saying a joke. 女朋友 might work among female friends in some context sometimes, and it sounds cutie.
    – dan
    Sep 29, 2017 at 6:02
  • @dan I heard "你又跟你男朋友去开黑了?" - By my girlfriend. Conversation doesn't need to be serious. It's not awkward at all! (At least in my example)
    – Kevman
    Sep 29, 2017 at 6:05
  • @dan "男的朋友" seems verbose to me. Why not just say "男的".
    – Kevman
    Sep 29, 2017 at 6:07
  • I would consider that your GF is joking by implying your gay relationship. In this case, we'd even put 基友 for that kind of joking.
    – dan
    Sep 29, 2017 at 6:07
  • People just use it like that. It's all about conventions. There's just no reason why you put this way or that way sometimes.
    – dan
    Sep 29, 2017 at 6:10

Why so complex? 我记不得那些 (said 诸葛亮的门童)

You want it be simple when you talk about 'sex', so the short ones like 男朋友, 女朋友 means 'sex partner'.

It will be complex when you take about 'social relations', so the long ones like 男性朋友, 男的朋友 are friends which are man in biology.


男朋友 = boy friend 男性朋友 = male friend 男的朋友=male friend

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