To friend someone on Facebook

In English, can we say ‘to friend someone (on FB)?

Four years ago in the Ming Pao column I co-authored with Dr Benjamin Au Yeung, I was still saying no.

In fact, when someone suggested this usage in 2008 on Urban Dictionary, it got only 7 Like’s. By the standard of Urban Dictionary, the usage received almost no support.

In 2009, when someone used it on the Internet, it was written as “how to ‘friend’ someone on FB”. The verb friend was put in quotation marks.

In 2012, the website eHow took away the quotation marks.

In this Tuesday’s episode of The Good Wife, this expression was used 5 times, by 4 educated adults: “I wanted to friend all the other jurors”; “I friended the judge”; “she friended me back”, and so on.

Language is changing all the time, and I think we have come to the stage where we can accept and safely use “to friend someone (on FB)”. (So I take back what I said in Ming Pao 4 years ago. But if your students use it in DSE and get penalised, don’t blame it on me, haha!)

Incidentally, I looked up FB’s Help page; they’re still using the cumbersome ‘to add someone as a friend’.

In Hong Kong Cantonese, we say, in mixed code, “please ADD me”; “let me ADD you”, and so on. We don’t say ‘please FRIEND me’.

As FB is banned in Mainland China, we need not bother about what they say.

But what about Taiwan? How do they say ‘to friend someone’ in Taiwan Mandarin?


2 thoughts on “To friend someone on Facebook

  1. Andrew Lyf

    Interesting! I think it’s just a matter of time for ‘friend’ to become a verb. In English, if we want to express this act, we can up to now only say ‘make friends with’ or a very formal one ‘be befriended by’, both of which are not convenient enough as compared with a single verb. In some dictionaries, there is a new sense of ‘friend’ as a noun which specifies particularly what we mean the ‘friends’ we add in social networks. So if there are more and more people, especially youngsters, who use ‘to friend someone’ on the Web, I guess this sense will appear in dictionaries sooner or later.

  2. In fact, another reason why we need an expression like ‘to friend someone’ is that it has a different meaning from ‘to make friends with someone’ and ‘to befriend someone’!

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