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I guess some cities actually have the word "city" in their names, e.g. New York City, some others not, e.g. Boston, Beijing.

In some informal situations, people might use "New York", "Boston City" or "Beijing City".

In formal situations, "New York City" would have the word "city"; "Boston", "Beijing" or some other cities like them would not have the word "city".

Is my understanding right?

However, I found some news use "New York City" while some use "New York". Could you give us some examples of the contexts?

source: wiki1 wiki2 news1 news2

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It's formal vs informal.

New York City is the formal name of the city called New York; in informal situations, it is permissible to refer to it as New York. The reason that it's formally named New York City is to distinguish it from the name of the state it resides in, which is also called New York.

You are correct that Beijing or Boston would not be called "Beijing City" or "Boston City", though some cities might have regions within them referred to in a similar fashion; this is fairly common in Australia, where "the City of Sydney" refers to a specific urbanized region of Sydney governed by the Sydney City Council; if an inhabitant of Sydney were to refer to "the City" without any clarification, this is the area they would be referring to (though I believe that this usage is a part of the Australian dialect, and may not be understood elsewhere). This possibly dates back to their colonization by Britain, because a similar distinction occurs between the city called London and the City of London, which denotes a specific region within London that contains the original Roman settlement.

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  • Thank you. I guess I got a clear understanding about the first paragraph. In second paragraph, "the City of Sydney" is just part of "the City" that consists of a specific urbanized region of Sydney and some other area, right?
    – WXJ96163
    Apr 2 '20 at 2:19
  • Sydney as whole (formally, the Sydney metropolitan area) consists of the City of Sydney as well as a number of other areas. Here's a map that shows the broader metropolitan area and the City of Sydney (though it's not completely labelled with the names of all the different areas). researchgate.net/figure/…
    – nick012000
    Apr 2 '20 at 2:23
  • "The City" would be informally used by the residents of Sydney to refer to the City of Sydney, or by the residents of other major Australian cities to refer to the central, built-up areas of their cities (which might be formally referred to as "the City of [city name]") - but using it this way would be a part of the Australian dialect, so using it this way may not be understood by people outside of Australia.
    – nick012000
    Apr 2 '20 at 2:26
  • Thank you, that's very kind of you. I guess "the central, built-up areas" refers to some area like downtown, right?
    – WXJ96163
    Apr 2 '20 at 2:48
  • Yes, that's correct. The bit with all the skyscrapers.
    – nick012000
    Apr 2 '20 at 3:01
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The formal name of the city is "New York"

However this is also the name of the state which is also called "New York", so people will say "New York City" or "New York State" when it could be ambiguous. This has developed into an idiom, so you will hear "New York City" even when it is clear that they mean the city, from context.

This isn't particular to New York. People say "The City of London" (the central financial district) to distinguish it from "Greater London" (the large conurbation). Almost nobody lives in the City of London, except banks.

And this practice is not unique to English. In Japanese, "Tokyo-fu" and "Tokyo-shi" are used to distinguish the prefecture from the city.

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  • The City of London is a formally different entity from the city called London due to historical reasons involving treaties made by the Crown.
    – nick012000
    Apr 3 '20 at 0:17

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