Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Do you know what to call your romantic partner in English?

Do you think it’s a big deal when people “make it official” so they can call each other the word boyfriend or girlfriend?

We’re going to look at some terms of endearment that you can use in English to sound current and relevant when you connect with natives.

Knowing what to refer to this person as can really help with the overall connection.

Today we have a listener question about titles and what we can call our romantic partners.

Hi, Linday! Hi, Michele!

This is the first time I’ve written to you so first of all I want to thank you for your podcast. You’ve helped a lot and I definitely feel that I’ve improved my English communication skills with the awesome tips you give on the show.

I was listening to the episode 1104 (How to express your love in English), and there’s something related to the topic that I’ve always wanted to ask a native English speaker about. How should I call my beloved one? I mean, I’ve heard people saying “Darling”, “Honey”, “Sweetheart/Sweetie”, but I really don’t know which of those are more frequently used or have been used lately (especially by young people).

I also would like to know what I could call someone that hasn’t become an official boyfriend yet, but I just don’t feel like simply using his name. Is there any cute word that I could use to call him, under these circumstances?

Thank you so much for your help! You guys rock!

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Looking At These Terms of Endearment

This is about calling the person that you love something special.

There are some good words, some of which were covered in the letter.

  • Darling: This tends to be a bit old fashioned, but it can still work. You might even say darlin’ for short. It shows that they are important to you, but it’s not used as frequently anymore.
  • Honey: You might tend to hear this one used often. You might hear hon’ for short or honey used as a frequent term of endearment. It’s very sweet as the word implies.
  • Sweetheart/Sweetie: This one is used a lot still. It’s a classic way of referring to somebody that you love and care about. This is common as are “babe” or “baby” which are closely related. You might hear a man referred to as babe most often. It works for both and it’s a nice word to use.
  • Sugar: This one may feel a little silly, but it can work. It’s definitely a more direct term, but it can be good for expressing your affection.
  • Boo or bae: These are both more modern and they work quite well. You will hear these a lot because they are modern twists and definitely a part of pop culture in their representation.

Remember that many times, nicknames just come out of nowhere and that’s part of the fun!

Not Official Yet

So what do you do if you aren’t exactly official yet?

You really like this person and you may spend a lot of time with them.

Now you have to introduce them and you feel really unsure how to do that if you’re not officially in a relationship.

As far as if you can call someone something different if you aren’t official yet– you would probably call them the same thing, but it’s all about what you call them to OTHER people.

You could say “this guy/girl I’m seeing/dating” or if they are there, you can say ‘my friend”-but this can get awkward.

Keep it as light as possible and focus on the fact that you’ve been spending time together–no need for titles at this point.


The idea of being “official” may be more old fashioned nowadays.

Some people like labels and others don’t, so don’t put too much pressure on it.

It can get awkward at times when you have to introduce that person to others and you don’t know what to call them!

Also, nicknames come out of experiences and may be a special thing you share with that person, so let that come up naturally.

This all makes for a great way to connect with your partner.

Read more here about dating in American culture.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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