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  1. #1
    englishhobby's Avatar
    englishhobby is offline Senior Member
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    Default My girlfriend / My boyfriend

    Hello again,

    here's a little confusing point. Supposing I am a girl who has a friend (another girl). I am talking to someone and mention this girl in course of the conversation, like this:

    I went to London with my girlfriend.

    Of course, I can say: I went to London with a friend, a girl. But what if I want to use just one word and I am not going to mention this girl in the convesation anymore? I just want to say that I travelled to London with my friend and that my friend is a girl. The same thing is with "boyfriend" if another boy is talking about his friend. Will it sound a little... strange? ambiguous? Can you only use the words "girlfriend" and "boyfriend" to talk about the person you are dating or also about your friends of the same gender (if you want to mention their gender)? The problem is that in my language (Russian) we have two different words for a female friend of a woman and female friend of a man. The word girlfriend is associated for us only with somebody's date, not just a friend. So, is the sentence I wrote ambiguous if said by a girl? How would you put it differently then?

    Thank you in advance.
    If I were a native speaker of English, I would never shut up.)

  2. #2
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Default Re: My girlfriend / My boyfriend

    Take a look at the several similar threads which your excellent thread title has brought up below. This subject has been discussed several times, once quite recently.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: My girlfriend / My boyfriend

    This comes up a lot, but I didn't like any of the similar threads recommended.

    A female can refer to her friend who is a female as a girlfriend. I went to the movies with some girlfriends. I am going to London with a girlfriend because my husband doesn't like to travel.

    A male cannot do the same, neither with a female friend or male friend.

    A female cannot refer to a male friend as her boyfriend. That's for romantic partners only.

    I don't know why. It's just cultural.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  4. #4
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Default Re: My girlfriend / My boyfriend

    I don't have time to go through all the similar threads but I echo Barb's comments. I would add though, that in BrE, we don't use "girlfriend" to mean "female friend of a female" very often.

    If a girl said to me "I went to the cinema with my girlfriend" last night, I would assume that she was a lesbian who had gone to the cinema with her female romantic partner.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  5. #5
    billmcd is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: My girlfriend / My boyfriend

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    I don't have time to go through all the similar threads but I echo Barb's comments. I would add though, that in BrE, we don't use "girlfriend" to mean "female friend of a female" very often.

    If a girl said to me "I went to the cinema with my girlfriend" last night, I would assume that she was a lesbian who had gone to the cinema with her female romantic partner.
    Good info. Something to remember especially for Am women if they are conversing with a native Britain.


  6. #6
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Default Re: My girlfriend / My boyfriend

    Quote Originally Posted by billmcd View Post
    Good info. Something to remember especially for Am women if they are conversing with a native Britain.

    As I said, it's not used very often though I have a feeling that it's becoming more common because, as usual, terminology from American TV shows does get used.

    I should have pointed out that had a girl said to me "I went to the cinema with my girlfriends" last night, I would not assume she was a lesbian who had multiple partners and they had all enjoyed a trip to see a film together! I would assume that she was using the American term for "a group of female friends". Of course, I would assume nothing about her sexuality from the statement and nor should I.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: My girlfriend / My boyfriend

    As I wrote elsewhere:

    You can use 'male/female friend' if it is important to specify'::

    A: Doesn't your husband object to you having so many female friends?
    B: Why should he? We both have male and female friends. Marriage doesn't mean you have to stop seeing friends just because they're the opposite sex.

    However, we often don't need to specify. A friend's sex is often of as little signifiance as their sexuality, religion, politics, etc.

    In a language where nouns have gender, then we automatically know that the masculine noun, for example, Freund in German refers to a male friend, and that the feminine noun Freundin refers to a female friend. However, this does not necessarily mean that there is any focus on the natural sex of the person rather than the grammatical gender of the noun. There is no evidence to suggest that Germans think of a table as a male thing or a newspaper as a female thing just because of the grammatical gender of the words that refer to these things.

    The natural sex of the friend referred to is normally clear from the context, as in "I bumped into an old friend yesterday, He was in town on business and ...", or the name: "I had dinner last week with Peter, a friend from college days". If the natural sex of the friend is of interest, and is not clear from other signs, then clarification will be requested/provided:

    A: Fancy coming to the pub tonight?
    B: I can't, I'm afraid. Pat's invited me round for a meal.
    A: Who's Pat?
    B: A friend I used to work with.
    A: Boyfriend?

    B: {No, just someone I've known since my time at Sainsbury's. [sex still not clear and, presumably, unimportant.]
    B: {No, he's gay, but we both enjoy cooking, and ... . [sex now clear, though not necessarily important.]
    B: {No, Patricia - you remember Pat from Sainsburys, don't you?) [sex now clear, though not necessarily important.]
    Please do not edit your question after it has received a response. Such editing can make the response hard for others to understand.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: My girlfriend / My boyfriend

    Do we take it that "sex isn't necessarily important", 5jj?
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: My girlfriend / My boyfriend

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    Do we take it that "sex isn't necessarily important", 5jj?
    Have you seen how old I am?
    Please do not edit your question after it has received a response. Such editing can make the response hard for others to understand.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: My girlfriend / My boyfriend

    You only look about 40 on your photograph.

    Shame about the eyebrows, though.

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