Asking a person's name ... politely

Discussion in 'English Only' started by chance2vent, Sep 1, 2008.

  1. chance2vent Senior Member

    Montreal Quebec
    Hi guys,

    Will you please tell me if there are some polite way to ask "what is your name?"

  2. Toadie

    Toadie Senior Member

    "What is your name?" works fine. Another very friendly sounding way is "What was your name again?"
  3. chance2vent Senior Member

    Montreal Quebec
    Thanks Toadie for your help!

    And one more question pls, do people say "may i have your name?" and if so, is it polite?
  4. BODYholic Senior Member

    Chinese Cantonese
    The old English way of asking, 'How may I address you?'.
  5. gasman Senior Member

    Canada, English
    A long time ago, I was told that if you don't know someone's name, just say so. If they reply "It's John", you then say, "Oh I know that, it's your last name I can't remember!" And vice versa.
  6. chance2vent Senior Member

    Montreal Quebec
    Thanks guys for all your help, you've been wonderful!
  7. the_cannibal_animal Senior Member

    Lawrence, KS, U.S.
    English - Midwest U.S.
    Good answers above. Don't stress out too much about a specific way of saying things, because if people can tell you're not a native speaker they'll be much more forgiving about your use of the language.
  8. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The answer is "politely" :)
    Your simple question is perfectly OK, and is used all the time.
    Asked in a friendly tone of voice by someone who appears interested it is great.
  9. chance2vent Senior Member

    Montreal Quebec
    So, "may i have your name?" is not correct?!
  10. the_cannibal_animal Senior Member

    Lawrence, KS, U.S.
    English - Midwest U.S.
    It's correct, but it's not necessary. The above wordings can be used in any situation.
  11. kitenok Senior Member

    Hi chance,
    If someone said to me "May I have your name?" then I would tell them: "No, it's my name and I want to keep it!" :rolleyes:

    But seriously, it sounds strange to my American ears, and not the kind of thing one would say to begin a polite conversation.
  12. abenr

    abenr Senior Member

    Scottsdale, AZ, USA
    English, USA
    It's correct grammatically, but does sound a bit non-native. As for asking politely for someone's name, I'd say, "Do you mind if I ask your name?"

  13. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    "May I have your name" is American, but hasn't been used much in the last couple (or three or four) decades. I agree, best to avoid it.

    If you add a smile and say "please" at the end, any of these formulas will be fine.
  14. the_cannibal_animal Senior Member

    Lawrence, KS, U.S.
    English - Midwest U.S.
    I wouldn't add "please" to any but "May I have your name."

    "What is your name, please?" sounds odd unless you're checking off names on a guest list or something.
  15. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Meeting people for the first time - especially in a crowd - "what is your name" is perfect. Surrounded by 80 screaming kids at the summer club, that's what we all said and that's what they all said to us.
    It'll be the same thing with a large crowd of students or adults or if I fall into conversation with someone in the park or wherever.

    The setting there is one where I am not expected to know the names and we are meeting for the first time.

    In other circumstances, where perhaps it might not seem necessary to know someone's name, "May I have your name?" would be a more indirect way of asking. For example, when we went along to an information evening and would have been happy to drift in to sit and listen, the girl at the reception desk used this question.
  16. chance2vent Senior Member

    Montreal Quebec
    Thanks a lot guys!

    That really helps, it's very nice of you all!
  17. Gagarin1961 Banned

    Minsk, Belorussia
    Hi everyone,

    I'd like to ask a very simple question, but on the other hand it's a very important one. When we want to ask a person's name we can choose one of the following questions:

    1) What is your name?
    2) How do they call you?
    3) How is one to call you?

    The answer is usually one of the following variants:

    4) My name is ...
    5) I'm called ...

    I wonder if questions #2 and #3 are used in speech today and what about reply #5?

  18. airportzombie

    airportzombie Senior Member

    English - CaE/AmE
    2, 3 and 5 sound like literal translations from other languages; they do not sound idiomatic at all. Stick to 1 and 4.
    Last edited: May 6, 2011
  19. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    'What is your name, if you don't mind my asking' (used in a formal yet friendly way, eg if you meet an attractive girl for the first time)

    'Could I ask your name?' (formal, although with slight connotations of annoyance or coldness)
  20. Fabulist Banned

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    Although "call" is idiomatic in AE for "be referred to by," it is only used under certain circumstances. Using it inappropriately is common among English language learners. Sentences 2, 3, and 5 are examples. Some ways to use "call" are:

    My name is John Addington Phillips III, but everyone calls me Jack.

    A movie title: "They Call Me Mr. Tibbs." This was about a black New York City police detective who had been sent to a small town in the southern U.S. to help solve a murder. New York was much less racist than the south, so a police detective was treated respect whatever his color, and called "Mister."

    "When you call me that, smile!" This is from a Western [U.S.] novel, I think Owen Wister, The Virginian. A newcomer is addressed as "you bastard" or "you SOB" ["son of a bitch"]. This is his reply: you had better mean that in a friendly way.
  21. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    No one, amazingly, has brought up the question of context. Depending on circumstances, how to inquire about someone's name might be very different.

    If I am checking attendees in and handing out name cards at the start of an event, I would simply say, "Your name?"

    At a social gathering: "Hi, I'm Parla! and you are — ?"

    At a business meeting, "Parla X," with a hand extended. I'd expect the other person to shake my hand and say his or her name.

    There are many other situations, many other ways.

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