I have sometimes wondered what would be the appropriate way of addressing (fellow) students that are junior to oneself. Given name? Full name? Name + 妹/第? Are there even cases where one can use 哥/兄 etc.?

I assume 小+surname is not used, is that correct?

And: does one have to take gender into account? I.e. boy addressing girl, boy—boy, girl—boy, girl—girl.

If one is not sure, how does one find out what the other person is comfortable with?

  • I'd say 學弟/妹,師弟/妹 are both Okay..( sorry for typing in traditional Chinese though
    – phoeagon
    Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 13:30

2 Answers 2


To be honest, although you could use 学弟, 学妹, etc. to address other students, the most natural way of addressing them (especially when you interact face to face) is by full name. Full names retain a reasonable amount of respect without making it sound too formal. Adding a suffix would only make it overly formal and consequently awkward. For example, full name + 同学 might be used by a teacher when announcing an award given to the student.

Side note: 兄,哥 were used in more ancient times such as 师兄 and 师哥. Back then things tend to be much less casual. For example, if you and your older "classmate" both train under the same martial arts master, you'd might call that student 师兄.

Reference: I grew up in China.

  • Thanks for pointing this out. That fits my own impression (but interactions with non-native speakers are often different, so it is good to check). The next question then would be: is there a stage when you can switch to using the given name only (provided it has two syllables, I guess)? How close do you have to be for this to be natural? I suppose nicknames can also occur.
    – mazed
    Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 17:41
  • Surprisingly, using full names in Chinese is much more casual than it seems (especially when compared to English). I've very rarely seen people use just the given name these days. Often times when you are good friends and become familiar with each other, you'd simply come up with nicknames (for a shorter alias or just for plain fun).
    – Jason Chan
    Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 19:19
  • I decided to retract my answer since your answer is better than mine. @mazed I do not want to make the issue too complex for you. You will be okay if you just go by this answer.
    – Nobody
    Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 3:09
  • By the way, graduate students (masters, phds) usually prefer 师兄(弟…) over 学长(弟…) because the supervisor-grad student relationship is analogous to the traditional master-disciple relationship. Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 11:08
  • Interesting. I didn't know that =). And thanks, scaaahu for the support!
    – Jason Chan
    Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 12:54

For example, if you have a female junior who has a family name of 张(Zhang) and your family name is 王(Wang) and you are male. She can address you as 小王学长 and you can address her as 小张学妹.

When you two call each other instead of addressing each other to other people, you can just call her 学妹.

So a male senior is 学长 and a female senior is 学姐. A male junior is 学弟 and a female junior is 学妹.

  • Thanks! Some follow-up questions: Is it acceptable to use 小张 etc. without adding 学妹? What about just using the full name or (two-syllable) given name? And -- are there any gender differences?
    – mazed
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 10:30
  • I thought it is either 小王 or 王学长 and not 小王学长?
    – 杨以轩
    Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 3:22

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