Names and Forms of Address in China

A Chinese name consists of a surname and a given name, with the former preceding the latter. Surname are usually single-charactered, such as 赵,钱,孙,李 with but a few exceptions, such as 欧阳,司徒,诸葛. Given names are composed of one or two characters. To write a name in the phonetic alphabet, the surname and given name are written separately and the first letter of each is capitalized.

A little following a surname is a common form of address to show respect in China, such as 王先生 (Mr. Wang), 刘小姐(Miss Liu),周主任(Director Zhou),林经理(Manager Lin). Addressing someone by his given name indicates a close relationship.

先生 (Mr.) is a common form of address for a man. For old professors, scholars, experts, etc., 先生 is used regardless of sex. Chinese women often refer to their husbands as 先生, but do not use it as a direct form of address. 同志(comrade) is a common form of address on the mainland, regardless of sex. 夫人(Madame or Mrs.)is a respectful form of address for a married woman, used mostly on formal occasions. The husband’s surname is often added before the Chinese term 太太. 小姐(Miss)is commonly used to address young ladies. 女士 is a respectful form of address for women, often used on formal occasions. Less formally, 老(old) and 小(young) are prefixed to surname, for both sexes, but whether 老 or 小 is used depends on the age difference within one’s working or social group. 师傅(Master) is a respectful form of address for people with certain skills. But the most direct and simplest way of addressing people in 您(you), a respectful form of address.

Words translated by CCJK


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