How do people (especially in Taiwan) use their names when talking among friends, for example, in University?

I've previously heard that some people always use the complete name when addressing other people - is this true?

For example, let's say that Person A talks to Person B about Person C and they are all friends and know each other. Would Person A use Person C's complete name here? Or only the given name?

Another situation: what if Person A talks directly to Person B and wants to use Person B's name in a sentence?

Additionally, how does the use of English names come into play? I think I've heard some people use their English names in a Chinese sentence before.


5 Answers 5


From my personal observations from living in Taiwan for years, I found that it really varies, depends on what people are used to in that particular town or area, depends on the level of formality or familiarity, the person's who is calling the name personality and what the named person introduces themselves as.

Calling each other by full 3-character name seems common in some circles even among close friends (my girlfriend often even calls her parents and brother by full name casually, and most of her friends from school exclusively by full name in an affectionate way), completely nonexistent in other circles and in others yet only certain people are called by the full 3 characters, while others are not.

Using the 2-character given name seems to me to be the most common form of address between informal casual acquaintances, ,schoolmates, university students, members of a club, etc., where everyone is roughly of same age or rank and nobody is long-term friends with anyone.

In groups with long-standing relationships I would say most people have a nickname and expect to be addressed by it over their name. Sometimes, especially down south, the nickname is a character of their name prefixed with 阿, such as Awei, Ajie, Ajou, Amin, etc. Sometimes it would be 阿+another random name or word that is unrelated to their real name. The above also applies to using 小 instead of 阿. 小 is often also used with just their surname. Other nicknames seem to be completely random words that people are called (and call themselves) that translate to things like cucumber, chicken, bucket head, whatever. Totally random.

English names are also quite common as nicknames that they are know by over their real names. This is in my experience more common up north, in metropolitan areas and groups where people tend to speak more English, especially the entertainment industry where colleagues wouldn't even know the Chinese name of someone who calls themselves by an English name. Something like 大家好我是Cindy is very common to hear as an introduction, even on the radio.

Edit: Forgot to include another very common nickname type which is used pretty much exclusively by girls: reduplication. Taking one character of their name and doubling it, making that their nickname. Like NingNing, TianTian, JiaJia, HuaHua, etc.


Based on my life experience so far in mainland, most people tends to call the complete name. It is not really convenient but more polite, and boys tend to avoid being to close so will avoid calling given name only. For girls, calling the given name only may be more common practice. However, in some case, especially one is speaking to a friend younger than himself, he may call his friend by his given name.

There is another more common practice between male friends. That is to give nickname (in all ways). Recently in my school (from high schools to universities), people like to call good students by god神, so we may call someone by one's first name+神. This is being overused, and even applied to students whose grade is awful. I think many Chinese students (mainly in mainland) do feel it inconvenient to call others by complete name but it feels a little hard to change the whole circumstances.


If we talk to friends in Taiwan, we will use his given name or nickname. Use full name when angry with someone or special occasion like formal occasions. This rule could use not only to the person who you are talking, but the person you mentioned. This may indicate how close the person you are referring to.

In university, we seldom using English name(except the person is foreigner), but I don't know why it use in many company when we are working.

  • "...seldom use English name(except the person is foreigner)" Many Chinese, mainland or otherwise have an "English" name because often times Westerners either have difficulties pronouncing the Chinese name or just finds it difficult to remember. I am never called Wayne in my place of work. Commented May 23, 2020 at 12:30
  • Yeah, we all have a English name when we are learning English as a child or get into work.
    – 高鵬翔
    Commented May 23, 2020 at 13:01
  • 1
    Thanks. I know that the English name is usually reserved for foreigners, but I think I somehow remembered that while two Chinese native speakers spoke in Chinese together, they used the English name. But I guess this was just because I was trying to listen to the conversation.
    – Hellstorm
    Commented May 23, 2020 at 18:09

This answer is based on mainland China experience but according to my friends from Taiwan and HK, I think it is universal.

If a person has a 3-character name, call the given name. If a person has a 2-character name, call the full name is OK. The rule of thumb is to shorten the name to 2 characters. It is pretty safe to do so without being offensive.

For example: A Girl named 董媛 can be called by just full name. It is fine. A Boy named 石文博 can be called 文博, but directly calling him 石文博 is not very friendly.

When mentioning a third person in a conversation it is OK to use the full name. However, if the two people are all friends of the third person, they tend to also use the 2-character version to show a more close relation.

For English names. I would say it is used as a nickname. Whether or not an English name is used in Chinese conversation depends on its pronunciation: if it sounds like a Chinese word it is more likely to be used. For example, John (张), Peter(皮特), Coco(扣扣) are used often. An example that failed this standard is "Catherine". People often refuse to use her English name in Chinese conversations because there are too many syllables in it. It would be much better if she introduces herself as "Cathy". "Cat" is also not likely to be used, because the Chinese language ends most words with a vowel. Another example is a friend named "Cameron". Mostly because of the "on", I think, Chinese friends mention him as "卡梅隆" in Chinese conversations which is the transliteration of his name.

The English names that are most likely to be used in Chinese conversations are the ones that:

  • with two syllables
  • end with vowel
  • do not have double consonants

This is my personal experience in Hong Kong. Below are solely my experience with people I'm close to.

First is my disclaimer, I often switch from speaking/typing in Chinese/English with my friends (mid-sentence or speech). This is sort of a feature of Cantonese used in Hong Kong.

In universities, we prefer to refer to others by their English names or sometimes by their Chinese/English nicknames (阿X), because we also have international students around. Then they wouldn't have to maintain 2 aliases for themselves. From my personal experience, if a person calls themselves by 阿X, then non-Chinese speakers would call them by X.

While in primary/secondary school though, we use refer to friends and classmates by their full Chinese name, English name, or Chinese/English nickname, which is the norm in Hong Kong.

Personally, I've never have the urge to call people by their given Chinese name. It feels awkward because I have never seen people do it ever. I only ever type out their phonetics Chinese given name in emails I send to professors relating to group projects.

I happen to know this may not be to same to Taiwanese people. Because some Taiwanese friends I know are called by their Chinese given names. They didn't explicitly asked it, but I would also call them by their given name just because I see that's how they identify as.

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