If I have a name (say Liliana) but prefer to be called by a nickname (eg Lily), what is the correct way to say it in the following format? Here are two examples so that you understand what I mean:

I am Liliana, but Lily for you.


I am Liliana, but Lily to you.

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    You can always take a tour to learn how to use this site. I heard often something like, "My name is Liliana, but you can call me Lily." – fev Jun 24 at 21:58
  • Your example sentence is probably missing a word or two: how would you make sense of the "Lily to you" part? It can't be a sentence by itself and it doesn't fit well as a replacement in the context of the rest of the sentence (i.e. "I am Lily to you"?). Those are the 2 ways to use "but" as a conjunction. It sounds more natural/correct to me to say "I am Liliana, but it's Lily to you". Although the "to you" phrasing usually/often sounds a bit like you're trying to command or correct the other person from a superior position, which isn't good. – NotThatGuy Jun 25 at 9:20

"To you" is the more common. A related common construction is "I am Liliana, or 'Lily' to my friends."

EDIT to include material from comments:

"__ to you" says "I might be called other things by other people, but this is what YOU should call me." Sometimes that could be giving special permission for someone to use a more intimate or informal address: "Dr. Jones—" "Please, after what we've been through together, I'm 'Indy' to you."

... or it could be the opposite, a cold and abrupt way of letting someone know that they have addressed you too informally or casually: "Hey, Mr. Jones—" "That's Dr. Jones to you."

If you want everyone to call you Lily, then "to you" isn't the best choice, since it communicates something unique to the person you're talking to. If you want most people to regularly call you Lily, then the suggestions in David Seigel's answer and its comments are best. If you rarely use "Liliana" except in legal situations and are universally called Lily, then "but I go by Lily" is great.

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    When you say that it is the most common, do you mean it only in that aspect? If I use "for you" instead of "to you", am I making a mistake or am I just saying it in the least frequent way? – Arce Jun 24 at 22:20
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    Your meaning would be understood, but "I'm ___ to you" is the established usage. As far as I know, "I'm ___ for you" isn't used. – Andy Bonner Jun 24 at 22:23
  • That finishes solving my doubt completely. Thank you so much! – Arce Jun 24 at 22:28
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    I agree that "to you" is more common than "for you," but it also conveys superiority and condescension. The answer demonstrates that but the question did not ask for it. And then again, calling Dr. Smith "Bill" when you are not a colleague or a personal friend is a faux pas. The question asked how to tell someone to use a less formal and friendlier forma of address, not the other way around. – Wastrel Jun 25 at 13:27
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    Using the phrase "to you" in this way is somewhat rude, isn't it? I think you should mention that in your answer. – Tanner Swett Jun 25 at 15:28

"To you" is much more common for this purpose, as the answer by Andy Bonner says.

However this form implies that while the person addressed is invited or requested to use the specified nickname (or title) others may not be. If the intention is to indicate that people in general are asked to use the nickname something more like one of the following would do well:

  • My name is Liliana, but please call me Lily.
  • My name is Liliana, but most people call me Lily.
  • My name is Liliana, but my friends call me Lily.
  • My name is Liliana, but I prefer that people call me Lily.

As comments have mentioned 'I go by ___" or "I am called ___" can also be used in this situation. "Some call me ___" might imply that the speaker acknowledges but does not like the nickname. The complex usage described by Davislor might work well in a novel, but, as the comment suggests, be unwieldy in real life.

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    Agreed; "__ to you" says "I might be called other things by other people, but this is what YOU should call me." Sometimes that could be giving special permission for someone to use a more intimate or informal address, or it could be the opposite, letting someone know that they have addressed you too informally or casually. – Andy Bonner Jun 24 at 22:35
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    Or the shorter. “Liliana, but I go by Lily,” or “Liliana, called Lily.” – Davislor Jun 25 at 8:15
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    @Davislor +1; As someone who has always been addressed by a name other than my legal first name, "I go by ____" has been my go-to phrase all my life. – Alex Jones Jun 25 at 8:50
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    @AlexJones You’ve been addressed by a name other than your legal first name your whole life, and then someone else had to become famous and ruin it for you? – Davislor Jun 25 at 8:52
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    Just do not, whatever you do, go with, “I am Lil, plain Lil, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. I am Ana in slacks. I am Lily at school. I am Liliana on the dotted line. But in your arms I am Lilita.” – Davislor Jun 25 at 8:59

For this specific case, ‘to you’ is the idiomatic form. The overall meaning is something along the lines of ‘The way I identify myself to you is X, and I expect you to use that identifier when talking to or about me.’.

‘for you’ might be used here, but has rather different connotation. Even in written form, using ‘to you’ in this context sounds like the speaker is somewhat irritated about you using a form of address for them that they do not want you to use. ‘for you’, however, makes it sound like the speaker is making a special concession and letting just you use a particular form of address, although using this with ‘for you’ for that meaning is far less common than just saying something like ‘You can call me Lily.’ (and some people may even misinterpret the use of ‘for you’ here as the speaker being irritated but not having a good grasp of the language).

In both cases, however, there is an implication that the form of address they are stating is not what they use with everyone. It may be just you that they want to address them this way, or it may be that they want most people to do so but have special exceptions for people such as close friends or family. If the intent is simply that they are stating their actual name, but prefer to be addressed by everyone by some nickname, then examples such as those in David Siegel’s answer are the more idiomatic way to convey this.


Either "for you" or "to you" is idiomatically acceptable and understandable to a native English speaker. However, there are likely connotations implied with both, and there are other constructions that would be more comfortable to the ear (and socially).

Both constructions would probably imply a rather individual case, rather than a general case. "For you" could be an indication of an exception of a personal nature, akin to saying "My friends call me Lily" (implying that the person addressed may be in consideration for friendship with the speaker). "To you" sounds more condescending, as though the speaker regards themselves as of a higher social class. However, this could be countered by the fact, in this case, that the name being offered is a diminutive, a nickname, derived from the given name, and such names are typically offered only to individuals who are closer, socially, to the speaker. "To you" would more likely be thought of when someone wants to create social distance, such as "That would be Doctor Smith to you".

There are any number of constructions that would be (marginally) more socially comfortable and more typical:

  • "Please call me . . ."
  • "You can call me . . ."
  • "I go by . . ."
  • "My friends call me . . ."
  • "I prefer that people call me . . ."

Neither, in the context given neither form is appropriate. To is better than for.

My name is Liliana, but to you: I am Lilly. My name is Liliana, but for you: I am Lilly.

Would be better as the form is closer to, but it is still not quite common parlance.

My name is Liliana, but please call me: Lilly. My name is Liliana, but you may call me: Lilly My name is Liliana, but I prefer to be called: Lilly.

All of these would be equally suitable.

  • This isn't a valid use of a colon and you spelled Lily wrong. – Kat Jun 27 at 23:00

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