Bro, dude, buddy: which can be used to start a conversation?

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AI3

Member
Chinese
Hey, guys.
This may sound trivial but still, since people need to use them everyday, I want to ask this question.
I used to start a conversation with the word "man", like "Man, where are you going?", until one of my friend told me that it was odd because "Nobody starts a sentence with 'man'." He told me I could use "bro" or "mate" to start a sentence. But as there are even more words with similar meanings, like "dude" or "buddy", I'm still confused when I'm looking for some variations (I mean, when I want to use "dude" or "buddy" instead of "bro" or "mate". Because if I use the same word consistently it might sound a bit boring.)
So, in general, my question is that among the 5 words "man, bro, dude, mate, buddy", which can be used to start a conversation and why. (Actually, I can accept it if the reason is simply "It's odd." or "People just don't use it that way.")
Thanks a lot, guys!
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    "Man" is more characteristic of my generation, AI3. I occasionally listen to young people talking in restaurants and such. They don't use "man" nearly as often as my friends and I did back in 1974. :)

    People still use "buddy", but I don't think teenagers use it that much.

    Both "bro" and "dude" are possible in the speech of teenagers and young adults. People who are thirty and older don't use these words nearly as often as younger men do. At that age (30 and older), "bro" and "dude" may sound a little ridiculous or immature.

    "Mate" is a British word that I never hear in the U.S.

    You can use "bro", "dude", and "buddy" in your own speech if you are talking with other young men. You can use them to start a conversation. I don't recommend these words in conversations with older speakers. "Bro" and "dude" are ridiculous if you are talking to women. "Buddy" is odd if you are talking to women.
     
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    AI3

    Member
    Chinese
    Thanks, man. It's really helpful.
    But, to be specific, which of the five can be used at the very beginning of a conversation? I mean, I'm stressing the position where that word is placed in a sentence, for example, "Bro/Mate/Buddy/Dude/Man, can I use your pen?" I know it is not improper to say something like "Thanks, man!" ("man" is not placed at the beginning of the sentence.) while it's not proper (according to one of my friends) to say "Man, ......" (like "Man, can I use your pen?"). Similarly, what about the other 4 words? Can they be placed at the beginning of a conversation? (Like "Bro/Dude, ......")
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    You're welcome.

    But, to be specific, which of the five can be used at the very beginning of a conversation?
    I'm sorry, AI3. I thought I already gave you an answer for that question. Here it is:
    You can use "bro", "dude", and "buddy" in your own speech if you are talking with other young men. You can use them to start a conversation.
    while it's not proper (according to one of my friends) to say "Man, ......" (like "Man, can I use your pen?").
    How old is your friend? What is your friend's first language?
    (like "Man, can I use your pen?").
    I don't think there is anything particularly unusual about beginning a sentence with "man" as long as your listener is somebody who uses that word as a term of address. It isn't unusual among my friends, many of whom are roughly my age or a little older.

    Similarly, what about the other 4 words? Can they be placed at the beginning of a conversation? (Like "Bro/Dude, ......")
    I can't tell you anything about the use of "mate". It's certainly possible to use the other words at the beginning of some question or remark.

    I urge you not to use these words too frequently. If your friends are using them frequently, they probably won't think that "bro" and "dude" in every sentence sounds strange.

    But most people don't use these words in every remark once they've reached maturity. If you use them too much, you'll probably sound weird to the people you are talking to. Too much of this sort of thing will make you sound like some strange imitation of an American teenager.
     
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    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    I'm entirely with Parla on this one. It all depends on who you are talking to.
    Are you talking to a stranger, a person whose speech habits you don't know? Let's imagine you are in the post office and you need to borrow a pen.
    If the other person sees you and understands that you are about to speak, just say "Could I borrow your pen?" or "Do you have a pen I could borrow for a second?"
    If the person does not see you and you need to get their attention, then "Excuse me, do you have a pen I could borrow?"
    All those "bro's" and "dudes" and things—if you are in a circle of friends who use them, imitate their usage; otherwise, forget them.
    (By the way, "guys" is another form of address that you might want to reconsider—not all women feel included by it.)
     

    Mahantongo

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    I am old-fashioned enough to find "Thanks, man" considerably less polite than a simple "thank you." I would also consider it disrespectful to be adressed as "man", "bro", or "dude" by a stranger, especially if he were considerably younger than I was. I therefore suggest not using these words with strangers so that you can avoid giving unintended offense.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Thanks, man. It's really helpful.
    But, to be specific, which of the five can be used at the very beginning of a conversation? I mean, I'm stressing the position where that word is placed in a sentence, for example, "Bro/Mate/Buddy/Dude/Man, can I use your pen?" I know it is not improper to say something like "Thanks, man!" ("man" is not placed at the beginning of the sentence.) while it's not proper (according to one of my friends) to say "Man, ......" (like "Man, can I use your pen?"). Similarly, what about the other 4 words? Can they be placed at the beginning of a conversation? (Like "Bro/Dude, ......")
    These are all very casual forms of address, usually used among friends or in situations where there is no social hierarchy. All of them, for example, would not be a good thing to say to a police officer, :) or a grandparent, or a teacher, or a boss, or... I hope that gives you some idea of their limited use.

    Also, every single one of them is addressing a male. This leaves out half the population, which is another limitation.

    I doubt there is a single word in Chinese that can be used to address someone whose name you don't know that would cover close friends, grandparents, police, teachers and bosses. The same is true in English.
     

    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    I always use "sir" or "ma'am" when speaking to someone to whom I've not been introduced. This might seem a bit excessive, but you can't go terribly wrong by being too polite. After an introduction I use "Mr." or "Ms." followed by the person's last name. I wouldn't address anyone with the words you've chosen.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I think one of the most common ways to address someone whose name you don't know is to avoid the issue entirely and say: "Excuse me, may/can I borrow your pen for a moment?" In the U.S. it's not unusual at all to hear "Excuse me, sir/ma'am, you dropped this" or "Excuse me, sir/ma'am, may I use your pen for a moment?"
     
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    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I think these terms (man, bro, buddy, etc) while they could be used to start conversations, as everyone above says, it's far from an ideal thing to do. It's potentially annoying or even offensive if you do it with the wrong person.

    Using "Excuse me" is better and will probably usually work but it also isn't the best choice if there is no reason to think you are intruding on someone or imposing by starting the conversation - it could potentially sound sarcastic then. In that case using "hi" or "hello" as a conversation starter would be better. "Hi, where are you going?" because "Excuse me, where are you going?" sounds like you're objecting to them going somewhere...
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Hello,
    I see a girl/woman/man going 10 metres ahead of me drop their wallet and not notice it. I want to call out to her/him about it. If I say Woman/girl/man, you dropped your wallet!" instead of Exuse me, you dropped your wallet!, would it be impolite?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    If I say Woman/girl/man, you dropped your wallet!" instead of Exuse me, you dropped your wallet!, would it be impolite?
    A lot of people wouldn't like it, Vik, so it's safer to use "Excuse me, ...". I wouldn't mind if you addressed me as "Man". I'd be glad you told me about the wallet. However, people vary widely in their tolerance for blunt words like "woman" or "man" as terms of address.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Hello,
    I see a girl/woman/man going 10 metres ahead of me drop their wallet and not notice it. I want to call out to her/him about it. If I say Woman/girl/man, you dropped your wallet!" instead of Exuse me, you dropped your wallet!, would it be impolite?
    As I said above, in the U.S. it would not be unusual to say "Excuse me, sir, you dropped your wallet!" or "Excuse me, ma'am, you dropped your wallet!" If it's a child it would be "young man" or "young lady" if you wanted to be polite. I certainly wouldn't use "boy" or "girl" without "little" in front of it: "Excuse me, little boy/girl..." Casually you could say "Hey kid... you dropped something."
     

    Mahantongo

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    Hello,
    I see a girl/woman/man going 10 metres ahead of me drop their wallet and not notice it. I want to call out to her/him about it. If I say Woman/girl/man, you dropped your wallet!" instead of Exuse me, you dropped your wallet!, would it be impolite?
    Yes, especially calling a woman "Woman!" Possible alternatives are "Miss" or even "Lady!" (which , surprisingly enough, is less formal than "Miss") when trying to attract the attention of the woman, and "Sir", or even "Mister" when calling after the man.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Thank you for the answers.
    Probably in Russian such words as woman, man, girl (girl/boy to kids) have a different semantics, unlike English, when used in addressing, and in the wallet context would sound pretty well.
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    Seems some of you are forgetting the main concern:

    Thanks, man. It's really helpful.
    But, to be specific, which of the five can be used at the very beginning of a conversation? I mean, I'm stressing the position where that word is placed in a sentence, for example, "Bro/Mate/Buddy/Dude/Man, can I use your pen?"
    The consensus is that it can be placed in the beginning, yes?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I don't know, Mattias. I've certainly heard this sort of thing frequently, and it seems normal enough to me. Parla seems to have her reservations about the idea. Cenzontle agrees with her, so I don't think there is a consensus. There are 20 posts so far in this thread. Obviously, people find the topic interesting and worth commenting on.
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    The consensus that I see is saying that it's grammatical, but impolite, to place a word like "man, woman, bro, mate, buddy, dude, girl" at the beginning of a conversation. So since "correct" can mean either thing (it is grammatical, or it is polite), we can't say that there is a consensus that it is "correct" or not.

    (And by "impolite" I mean it is either rude, or very informal, depending on circumstances. It is never formal or courteous.)

    I theorize that those who want to put these words in that position are doing so because in their own language or culture, it is rude not to do so. But that is only a theory as I have not seen anyone comment on that, nor would that be really a discussion to have in the English forum anyway.
     

    tehtmc

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    How you address people depends on where you are, the culture of the place. None of those work in Asia where people prefer to be more formally addressed, especially with strangers. Mr/Miss/Ma'am/Sir/Uncle/Auntie are common.
    'Mate' is considered a friendly, casual term to use with a stranger in Australia and NZ.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Seems some of you are forgetting the main concern:



    The consensus is that it can be placed in the beginning, yes?

    "Man" at the beginning sounds to me like an interjection. "Man! You dropped something" (which essentially means "oh no! / Shoot! / Shit!") rather than actually addressing anyone. To me it needs something in front of it, such as "Hey man, you dropped something!" "Dude" works fine at the beginning (when it's fine to use "dude") but the word expresses many different things that depend on emphasis and tone of voice. It's a tricky one to use if you are not around a lot of people who use it all the time. "Bro" would sound silly to me coming from anyone in a suit, :) for example, or almost anyone over 30, but it can start a sentence. "Buddy" is sometimes used sarcastically to indicate that you're not very happy with someone, particularly if it's at the beginning of the sentence, so that's another tricky one. I can't speak for "mate".

    If any stranger used any of these to start a conversation I would wonder why he was pretending to be a friend. In short, I would be suspicious unless it appeared to be the way he spoke to everyone, friend or stranger. I used to ride one bus line regularly that had a driver from Bangladesh. He greeted everyone with: "Hello, brother / sister / mother / father!" It was very unusual to me but charming, in its own way.
     
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    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    But it seems like it's not the placement that's the primary cause for discussion but the word itself. In other words "Bro, you dropped your wallet." is up for discussion not because "Bro" is in the wrong place, but because it might not be the correct word to use depending on whom you're speaking to.

    Or am I getting that wrong?
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    I'm a suspicious cuss. When a stranger addresses me as "man", I wonder "Why are you trying to hurry to the intimate stage of this relationship? What do you want from me?"
    I tolerate "sir" once or twice; after that I want to say "Relax! I'm not your commanding officer in the military."
    For some people, "man" is no longer a term of address, linked to adult males, but rather an exclamation of emphasis. "Man, Charlene! Your new perfume is overpowering!"
    Do not say "boy" to an African American man of any age.
    "Girl" and "woman" can be used only between very close female friends or sisters; the only exception is to a wife from a husband who doesn't respect her equality.
    (All the above for the sake of argument.)
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    But it seems like it's not the placement that's the primary cause for discussion but the word itself. In other words "Bro, you dropped your wallet." is up for discussion not because "Bro" is in the wrong place, but because it might not be the correct word to use depending on whom you're speaking to.

    Or am I getting that wrong?
    Some of them work at the start of the sentence; some of them don't, in my opinion.

    Sir, Ma'am, Miss - yes
    Bro, Dude, Buddy, Mister, Lady - yes, with caution
    Man, Guy - no, not as the first word (but "hey guy" and "hey man" work in some circumstances)
    Mate - ??? (But ewie says it sounds more natural at the end)

    I don't think you can make a blanket rule that all of them can be placed in the front and have it sound idiomatic.
     
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    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    So, in general, my question is that among the 5 words "man, bro, dude, mate, buddy", which can be used to start a conversation and why. (Actually, I can accept it if the reason is simply "It's odd." or "People just don't use it that way.")
    Thanks a lot, guys!
    I hear mostly "Bro" or "Dude" to begin the sentence for younger generations.

    Even girls call each other "dude" now. There are many threads on that. My family spans from 6 months to 80 years old with all generations in between, so I hear quite a variety.

    It sounds like the context is informal, so I think Mattias makes a good point by bringing the thread around.

    But, to each his own. What sounds natural to one may be foreign to another, depending on the context.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If you want to talk to me, a complete stranger? None of them.
    I agree. Here in the UK, I don't hear any of these words (four of which are in any case essentially AE) used by people of my age to start a conversation with a stranger. Younger BE speakers who I don't know never use any of these words to start a conversation with me; I don't know if they would use any of these words to start a conversation with a stranger of their own age (but I doubt it).
     
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    AI3

    Member
    Chinese
    Seems some of you are forgetting the main concern:



    The consensus is that it can be placed in the beginning, yes?
    Finally there's someone who got what I was trying to ask. TAT
    Thanks for all the replies, but what Mattias has mentioned is actually my original intention of posting this thread.
    I guess the reason why almost everyone happened to overlook is that this is really too trivial a thing to native speakers of English to pay attention to. But for people who don't speak English as their native language it might be confusing, at least it is for me.
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    When you wrote your original post, you said it was prompted by a friend saying something like, people never start the sentence with "man" -- this could mean it's ungrammatical sounding, or it could mean it's generally not done often and sounds weird. Everyone's been telling you it's the latter thing. It's grammatical, and people do it but the occasions where they do it are infrequent to a great degree. So if you were starting every 'conversation' with it, that sounded bizarre. And changing which word you use won't change that.

    So sure, it 'can' be placed at the beginning. But we all recommend you stop doing it.

    I hope that is not too confusing...
     

    E.C

    Member
    English - England
    Does anyone know what the technical term for such words (mate, dude, bro, man etc) is?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Welcome from me too. You mean 'term of address' or 'mode of address'?

    Or do you mean 'attention getter'? I was just thinking that in the case of the dropped wallet, I might actually just say 'hullo'.
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    In the UK, we rarely say 'dude' or 'bro' and never say 'buddy'. Young people (under 30) address their close friends as 'mate': e.g. 'mate, have you seen the new X-Men film?'. Some people use 'Mate..' with strangers as a form of address but it's not advisable for a learner, it sounds very odd in the wrong context. In Scotland it's common to use 'pal', usually 'excuse me, pal' for men addressing other men of the same age or younger, friends or strangers, but this is very informal.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Somebody I know uses "buddy" a lot, but I can't remember offhand who it is. The commonest one for me is "mate", which always sounds very natural. Both "dude" and "bro" come across as AE to me, and "man" is a definite relic from the hippy era.
    In the dropped wallet scenario, I would say: "Excuse me. You've dropped your wallet."
    So would I. I don't think I've heard anyone preface that with "Sir" in years, and I've never heard anyone use "Ma'am" like that in BE.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I got called 'ma'am' a lot in the States (fine, that's how they use it) but in the UK the Queen is addressed as 'Ma'am', although only after you have been officially introduced, when you address her as 'Your Majesty. 'Man' had made a comeback in the UK . My son and his mates :) certainly use it. Then, last summer in London a young Indian cashier called my elderly dad 'sir': he was quite taken aback, but not displeased. That said, I think 'sir' is still quite common in Indian English. And of course the female equivalent is 'madam', but I haven't heard that for years either.
     
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