I've sometimes earned laughter when I used 一个女人 or 一个男人. Does it have a derogative connotation?

Is it better to use 女的/男的 or 女生/男生? Are there regional differences in the usage?

  • Nothing wrong with 一个女人 (a woman) or 一个男人 (a man). You might had used them wrong grammatically. In what context you used these two terms and got laughed at?
    – Tang Ho
    Mar 15, 2018 at 20:12
  • We tend to use “一个男的/女的” more often. In formal situation, we tend to use "一位男性/女性".
    – Steve Yang
    Mar 15, 2018 at 20:22
  • bkrs 女人 1) 泛称成年女子。 2) 指妻子 (my) wife "现代汉语词典"女性的成年人 女子 female person; woman, dial. daughter 女的 woman/female 女性 woman the female sex(?,gender ?)
    – user6065
    Mar 15, 2018 at 21:30
  • No negative connotation, but "女人" and "woman" are not the exact equivalents. In most cases, the implied age of the Chinese term is a bit older, and it also hints at "married" or at least "marriageable". So if you use it for a young and single woman, you might earn giggles. Similar for "男人" and "man". Do you remember if you were using it for a younger adult?
    – monalisa
    Mar 15, 2018 at 22:41
  • 1
    We don't know the context, it's hard to speculate. If you were in the classroom though and referred to your classmates as 一个女人 or 一个男人 it would be pretty funny, not because of any bad connotations just simply because people don't talk like that in that situation. You might say something like 一个男同学 or 一个女同学. It's all about the specific situations.
    – Mou某
    Mar 16, 2018 at 3:38

2 Answers 2


男人 and 女人 are used when talking about the relationship between women and men or when talking about specific characteristics of 男人 or 女人. Without knowing your detailed context, my best guess would be that you use them to indicate a serious situation where the generic gender terms should be used, which are 男的 and 女的, or just 男 and 女.


Does it have a derogative connotation?

No, as a native, I'm pretty sure it is perfectly fine to use such an expression. My best guess as to why you've "earned laughter" is that there is something in the context that we're missing. If it is convenient to share the context, I might be able to help you understand the reason better. Contexts can make them derogative.

Is it better to use 女的/男的 or 女生/男生?

They all have their best situations:

  • 女的/男的 are adjectives, and when you're using them to mean "a man/a woman" you are abbreviating ("a male person" -> "a male"), hence it appears only in casual conversations.
  • 女生/男生 means specifically young ones, since they originally means male and female students.


  • 男人/女人 refers to grown-ups, and are usable in casual and formal conversations.

Are there regional differences in the usage?

Absolutely, remember Chinese is a group of languages -- there are other words to express the same meaning as well. However, it is out of my knowledge to give a comprehensive overview on how they are used. Edits are welcome, blink blink.

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