11

I used to meet foreigners at work in Taiwan and wanted to express my willingness to make friends with them, but I didn't know what to say or how to express, so I googled on the web and it usually suggested "Will you be my friend?", "Can we make friends?". Something likes that.

The first one sounds like I am begging for friendship. The second one sounds like "Can we make a robot?" to me. It sounds pretty weird for me, and bothered me for a long time.

I would like to know what are the proper ways to express the willingness to make friends with a native English speaker.

  • 2
    I just want to point out that part of the problem with the questions you brought up is that they are questions, and they're ultimatums (yes/no; it may be like a forever commitment to all-out be one way in who knows how many regards, to people). Plus, friend is a very ambiguous term that can mean lots of stuff (every other person might define it differently). Those questions also leave you in a vulnerable position (they allow you to be rejected, misunderstood, or rudely ignored). If you can make a statement instead, that might be better. It's normal to ignore statements, but replies can happen. – Shule Nov 8 '17 at 10:50
34

"Will you be my friend?" is the kind of thing children might say to each other. Adults rarely feel comfortable so openly asking for friendship. Alternatively, most people will suggest activities you can do together, for example:

Hey, let's go out and get something to eat sometime? I know this great restaurant.

or

Do you like noodles? I know this great restaurant.

Do you want to come over and hang out? We can watch TV or whatever. The game is on this weekend.

Have you seen that movie [X]? Why don't we go this weekend?

Why don't we grab a beer after work?

And so on. Of course, depending on your tone and other factors, a casual offer of friendship could be misinterpreted as flirting, but I'm sure that's the same in any culture.

Of course, some people are better at this than others, and more natural at making friends. If you are a friendly person, it often doesn't really matter what you say as long as your intention comes across.

Edit: I asked my wife and she offered:

Why don't we get together some time? We can do [suggested activity].

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    Interesting to see how different cultures are so direct... kinda wish we were that way sometimes – MCMastery Nov 6 '17 at 21:18
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    @WeatherVane that might be the British in you talking :) Here in the U.S. it's fine. Going to the movies is also a common first date (although the choice of which movie can be critical). – Andrew Nov 6 '17 at 21:31
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    I get that, but watching a movie isn't a get-to-know-you situation, and come-round-mine is risky. The meal, the beer, the (live) game are good. They can pace the dialog on neutral ground. – Weather Vane Nov 6 '17 at 21:34
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    Agreed, no phrasing of "will you be my friend" will not be awkward. – Shufflepants Nov 6 '17 at 23:01
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    You say: Hi I have just moved into the area, and I wanted to meet some new people, can we hang out some time etc swap numbers. – com.prehensible Nov 7 '17 at 9:27
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Speaking as a native of the US, both of your questions are grammatical but sound oddly childlike. There isn't really any way to explicitly say, "Can we be friends?" without it sounding weird. This is really more about culture than language usage. You're better off inviting the person to hang out outside of work.

In Seattle, where I live, probably the most common way of asking someone to be your friend is: "Want to grab coffee?" (This can also be an opener to a romantic relationship, depending on the circumstances.)

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    I agree, some variation on "coffee" is very common across the US (even for folks who don't drink coffee). If you can't go for a drink right at the moment of conversation, it can also be something like "We should have coffee sometime!" If they respond positively to that, then make firmer plans for when and where (which doesn't have to be a coffee-only place, even if you've stated it that way). – 1006a Nov 6 '17 at 23:18
5

To answer your question specifically, the most natural way that I can think of to ask this question would be:

Would you like to be friends?

This is something that would be overheard in a child's conversation in an English-speaking country. You might even hear it among adolescents who are making a quick judgment about someone in a new situation (e.g. welcoming a new kid at school to a clique). But it's not common among adults. However, given that you are in Taiwan, you may be able to play off some assumptions of naivete in asking the question directly.

I'd also suggest asking at Interpersonal Skills for more input that isn't language-specific.

3

Saying

Will you be my friend?

or

Can we make friends?

is not something that an adult says to make friendship. It only works after falling out with someone, when you already liked each other but had a disagreement. So it could be used to strengthen that liking, or to revive a broken friendship. In such circumstances

Can we be friends?

might be better.

3

As already noted, the idiomatic way of saying what you want to say is:

Can we be friends?

To add to the list of contexts in which English speakers (at least in the United States) might or might not use this phrase in adult conversation, consider the 1975 song by the band War, "Why Can't We Be Friends?" This is the same question raised to a broader social context, one in which the question is definitely not childish or socially inept. As part of the philosophy behind the song is the idea of gaining mutual understanding across barriers of race, language, culture, and/or nationality, it seems to me it might also speak to your particular situation.

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    This answers the question, "why can't be friends" which is definitely not OP's question. – RonJohn Nov 7 '17 at 3:01
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    @RonJohn This is one of those cases where a negative is not really a negative. The song's title is a rhetorical question whose answer is meant to be, "There is no good reason why we can't." Similarly, if someone shows you a bowl of fruit and asks, "Why don't you try one," they are urging that you do try one. Put another way: OP asked how to make a certain kind of request to someone. Why can't we be friends? is one way to make that request. Hence it is an answer to OP's question. – David K Nov 7 '17 at 3:18
2

The best way to tell someone you want to be friends is to not tell them at all. Try to show some emotion and invite them to a fun activity instead. Everything else falls into place after that and friendship can then be implied.

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    This might be good advice on a Stack Exchange devoted to relationships, but it's not very helpful when it comes to learning English. – J.R. Nov 6 '17 at 20:28

protected by J.R. Nov 6 '17 at 20:35

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