In an interactive story (that's why it is impossible to quote the text), the main character said to herself:

Am I the bad guy here?

when she was questioning a bad action, which has been done by a male character, then started doubting him.

There are many alternatives like one and person, but she chose to say guy.

Is it normal and usual to say that exact phrase by its common wording even if it needed logically to be changed? Or was that wrongly used in the story?

  • 6
    The terms bad guy and a bad girl have very strong and very different connotations and one cannot be substituted for the other without the high risk of a misunderstanding. Guy, more generally, is accepted by many though not all as gender-neutral; see e.g. Addressing a group of women as “you guys” and at EL&U, Is “guy” gender-neutral?, but again, the phrase bad guy (like bad girl) means more than the literal meaning of its components.
    – choster
    May 13, 2019 at 16:44
  • 1
    I found the idiom "bad guy" but not "bad girl" though. I think it may be used as it is an idiom that shouldn't be altered although some natives find that some rewording of the idioms can be acceptable. About (Is "guy" gender neutral?)-- the high rated answer stated this regarding "guy": The singular "guy" is another animal. It refers to males. It is also used to draw gender distinctions in a general way. (A guy walked into my store and asked for some cigarettes.) There is no doubt that this is a man we're talking about. May 13, 2019 at 17:21

1 Answer 1


Bad guy is an idiom most common in film but used for any fiction to describe the villain of any sex of a story. "In 101 Dalmations, the bad guy is called Cruella de Vil. In Duel, the bad guy is the car!" The opposite is good guy. "Do you think De Niro is better as bad guy or good guy?"

It is also used when describing real life circumstances as if they were a film.

The pronunciation of "bad guy" with this meaning is run together, to the extent that children will say "ba'guy" as if one word. Compare "a green house" (green paint, prnonunced separately) and "a greenhouse" (glass, pronounced run together) The same with "the white house over there" and "The White House in Washington".

Also in many circles, guys is used equally for men and women, in some circles it is specifically men. In the singular, guy is male everywhere I know about. (I checked with a couple of Californian writers, who tell me that in the second person "guys" is used for mixed sex and even single-sex female groups. Otherwise, in their circles, "guys" is normally understood to be male, "guy" is always male. Sample of two, San Francisco, one 20s the other 50s.)

  • Thank you so much, jonathanjo, for the answer! I would like to know some of those circles where "guy" can be used equally. I have searched about the term "guy", and it meant "man" literally. But I agree that it can be referred to either gender if it was in its plural form. May 13, 2019 at 17:12
  • 1
    Updated to clarify: yes, "one of the guys" might be a girl. "A guy" is going to be male. But I'm going to check with some young US native speakers how they use it.
    – jonathanjo
    May 13, 2019 at 17:27
  • 2
    jonathanjo is right about singular guy being male, and "the bad guy" as a description for villains. Another place the idiom "the bad guy" is used for women is in discussions of childrearing where the role of disciplinarian/keeping things on track is disproportionately shared. You see articles with sentences like "I'm the one who makes sure they do their homework and eat their vegetables, while he gets to take them out for movies and ice cream. Why do I always have to be the bad guy?" Here's one: babble.com/parenting/…
    – Katy
    May 13, 2019 at 17:39
  • 5
    @TasneemZH "Bad girl" has the general meaning of a girl that flouts society's rules, but frequently has a connotation that she's sexually promiscuous. There's a reality tv show named "Bad Girls Club" that you can read the description of here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bad_Girls_Club
    – Katy
    May 13, 2019 at 18:33
  • 1
    @TasneemZH .. updated with survey of San Francisco usage.
    – jonathanjo
    May 14, 2019 at 20:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .