For example, you are a 20 year old male/female. You are walking on the street, then you see a male stranger who seems to be the same age as your. He is in hurry, you see him drop his wallet. You pick up the wallet and want to give back the wallet to the person. He is walking quite fast and the street is quite crowded, so there is no way to approach him and pat him saying "对不起,你的钱包掉了" (excuse me, you dropped your wallet). You don't want to let him out of your sight, so you decide to shout to him "sir! you dropped your wallet!". How to say that in Chinese?

Can we use 同伴 or 同学 to address him? (eg: 同伴!你的钱包掉了!)

  • 1
    Just on a point of English, we normally don't use purse for a male, purse is considered feminine. We typically use wallet. en.wiktionary.org/wiki/wallet
    – going
    Feb 17, 2014 at 3:03
  • 2
    This is an interesting question. As a native speaker, when running into this situation, I am also struggling for searching a suitable word in my mind -- 1) 同伴 is not suitable for an unknown person. 2) 同学 is OK if he's young enough to be a student AND at an approximate age as yours. It sounds generation-after-80s styled. 3) 先生/女士 is formal, but sounds too formal to me. Anyway, I'm glad to see if there's a good answer, although this question would be a little opinion-based (hmm I'm not the down voter).
    – Stan
    Feb 17, 2014 at 3:19
  • 2
    BTW, there're three problems in the sentence 对不起, 你的钱包跌下来: 1) you haven't done anything wrong, you needn't say "对不起"; 2) you needn't put a space after a Chinese comma, i.e. it should be 起,你 not 起, 你; 3) 你的钱包跌下来 sounds strange, 你的钱包掉了 is more clear.
    – Stan
    Feb 17, 2014 at 3:27
  • 1
    @xiaohouzi79 That's OK. But 小姐 is not recommended, as this word is often referred to prostitutes now, some ladies would feel uncomfortable. That's why I'm struggling on this problem too ...
    – Stan
    Feb 17, 2014 at 3:32
  • 1
    In a situation like this I can't imagine a young person in any English speaking country who would address another young person as "sir". In fact all the options I can think of sound either regional or slang or both: "bud", "buddy", "dude", "man", "mate". An option in English is just to omit the term of address and say "hey", "hey there", etc. Feb 17, 2014 at 9:27

4 Answers 4


In my opinion, if you are adult and the person who droppd wallet is:

  1. younger than 11, you can call him or her "小朋友";

  2. at the age of 11 to 18, you can call him or her "同学";

  3. at the age of 18 to 24, you can call him "同学", "帅哥(cool man)", and call her "同学", "美女(beautiful girl)";

  4. at the age of 24 to 35, you can call him "帅哥", and call her "美女";

  5. older than 30, it really depend on your age and the person's age. For example, the person is 42, and you are 23, you can call him "叔叔(uncle)", and call her "阿姨(aunt)".

However, you can call the person who dressed very fashionably "帅哥","美女", eventhough he(she) is older than 35.

In addition, I think the person will usually stop walking, if you shout "喂,你的钱包掉了!(Hey, You dropped your wallet.)"

  • Is it really ok to use 同学 for stranger? As I just realized it's more for schoolmate. How about 同事?
    – null
    Feb 17, 2014 at 7:11
  • 帅哥 and 美女 is kinda creepy.
    – amateur
    Feb 17, 2014 at 8:00
  • @suud It is ok to use "同学", if the guy is young. "同事" is not appropriate, and usually be used to address colleague.
    – zz22
    Feb 17, 2014 at 9:00
  • 1
    @suud "同学,你+掉了": 47,100,000 google search results; "帅哥,你+掉了": 15,200,000 google search results; "美女,你+掉了": 53,700,000 google search results
    – zz22
    Feb 17, 2014 at 9:29
  • 1
    Is it not creepy for a foreigner to say to a stranger 帅哥 or 美女? Likewise, it's strange to hear 大哥 (boss). These don't seem appropriate. And 同学 doesn't seem right unless you're from the same school (in uniform). It also sounds like something from communist times. I guess if you really had to... maybe 老兄? (buddy, pal). If a woman is younger.. maybe 小妹.
    – amateur
    Feb 17, 2014 at 14:18

You would shout:

喂!喂!先生! 你掉了钱包!

(Wèi! Wèi! Xiānshēng! Nǐ diào le qiánbāo!)

Hey! Hey! Sir! You dropped your wallet!

喂 is important to attract attention.

Note: Never use 小姐 (xiǎo jiě) to address a mainland Chinese woman. This has developed into a derogatory slang term meaning "slut" in mainland China (referring to those who work in hostess bars). It's only OK to use in Taiwan where it retains the original meaning "Miss". It's also OK in other dialects such as Cantonese. Remember, this term is no longer OK in Mandarin usage in China.

If you need to address a woman in China, call her 大姐 (dà jiě).

Extra: 同伴 (partner) is weird. Don't use it. It's like "Hey, comrade!". 同学 would be OK if you're from the same school, otherwise it's awkward. Better stick with 先生. I would advise against using 大哥 as it sounds gangsterish and uncouth.

  • Thanks for your answer. Like Stan said, 先生 (Xiānshēng) sounds too formal although it's acceptable, especially when you address to same age young male. Is there less formal alternative to 先生?
    – null
    Feb 17, 2014 at 5:20
  • It's not too formal. Don't think of it as actually "Sir vs. Ma'am". It's just a way to identify a man vs. woman.
    – amateur
    Feb 17, 2014 at 5:32
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    1) to @suud: For the "先生" issue, I just said "to me", it's subjective. 2) to amateur: For the "大姐" issue, I think young ladies won't be happy to hear others call them like that; 3) For the "大哥" issue, I think it's a regional problem. If you use it in northern China, it sounds quite natural but in contrast 先生 would sound unnatural -- only waiters, civil servants or some other people with special identity would often use 先生 in some special circumstance.
    – Stan
    Feb 17, 2014 at 6:01
  • And another interesting topic: more than 30 years ago, in mainland China (PRC), 同志!("Comrade!") was the all-purpose term for anyone, men or women, old or young -- it is so convenient that I don't know why there isn't a similar term with the same function now.
    – Stan
    Feb 17, 2014 at 6:08
  • @Stan: I also feel 先生 is a bit unfit for same age young person. I heard 同志 now become a derogatory slang for homosexual. Btw, how about 兄弟 (Xiōngdì) or 阿哥 (Ā gē) or maybe 同事 (Tóngshì) for alternative of 先生 ?
    – null
    Feb 17, 2014 at 6:13

Before the '90s, 同志 (comrade) was a popular term that was fine to call others, both man and woman. But after Hong Kongers started to use it for another meaning (gay/lesbian), we stopped using it most of the time.

Now we can use 先生 (sir), 小伙子 (young fellow), 帅哥 (handsome man), 朋友 (mate), 小姐 (miss), 美女 (beauty).

  • @hippietrail, thanks to help and edit my answer, and made it more readable. But since you are appear everywhere in this forum (almost in every question and every answer, OMG). The big face in avatar make me annoying, could you please change it to others, and just make your face smaller?
    – Bill
    Feb 18, 2014 at 1:42
  • Haha don't worry, my three months learning Chinese in China and Taiwan is ending in a few days and I'll be in Japan or the Philippines learning a new language instead of focussing on Chinese, so my avatar will get less common here naturally pretty quickly (-: Feb 18, 2014 at 1:56
  • That's fine. I have to re-edit my answer one by one to remove your avatar out of my answer.
    – Bill
    Feb 18, 2014 at 2:15

I think good old 你好 makes a very nice general-purpose way to get people's attention. It's not super-polite but it's not impolite either, and you can generally say it to any stranger to get their attention.

I'm pretty sure it's ideal for the situation you describe, especially as you don't really have to think about it before blurting it out.

  • but ins't it weird to shout 你好 in this case? I think 你好 is more fit in situation when both person are faced each other or in very close proximity.
    – null
    Feb 24, 2014 at 5:10
  • @suud No it's not weird at all. It's like calling out "Hey! Excuse me!" in English. You're trying to get their attention, and 你好 can definitely be used for that.
    – MHG
    Feb 24, 2014 at 5:27

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