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I think I hear young people say this a lot but it sounds weird to my ear. I always say "dated/had" or "started to date/go out with". How acceptable and widely used is "make a girlfriend/boyfriend", actually? I wonder if it's being influenced by the more common "make friends with" turn of phrase.

Instances seem rare, but I did find an instance in American author Patti Stanger's book. But it seems to be talking about non-romantic friendship. "The second time she made a girlfriend who introduced her to still more guys." I have not found one instance that refers to romantic relationships from a native-speaking author.

This Ngram chart suggests it's fairly modern.

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    In Google Books actually there are a lot of usage examples. It appears it is an expression already in current use. The sense is “to get a girlfriend/boyfriend.” google.com/…
    – Mr. Black
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 17:16
  • Could you edit to add a link to your Ngram chart, please? It's easier for people to see what you've done to come up with that chart, and to have a play themselves as well. Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 17:22
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    All the relevant examples that appear in the search Gio linked appear to be written by Indian writers. I've never heard this phrase in American English, but it might be common in Indian English.
    – Juhasz
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 17:37
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    You say you hear young people saying this a lot. Can you provide examples of what you've heard? There are various ways it might conceivably be used: there's the romantic sense of girlfriend vs the friend-who-is-a-girl sense; and it might be "He made a girlfriend" or "He made a girlfriend of her" or "He made Betty a girlfriend". Are you asking specifically about "make a girlfriend" rather than variations with "his", "the", etc, because using the indefinite article seems a bit odd unless you have multiple girlfriends?
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 17:46
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    @Juhasz The first few results seem to be Indian but other authors using the phrase e.g. J.R. Rogue (who claims to be from the Midwest, presumably the American one) and Terra Kerry don't seem to be Indian. Although it's certainly uncommon, I'm not sure it's India-specific (it's uncommon in India too.)
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 17:53

2 Answers 2

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Not in American or British English

A collocate search in both COCA and BNC did not give any relevant results for "make a girlfriend/boyfriend" (even accounting for different verb forms). You can:

  • Make up a boyfriend/girlfriend
  • Make a boyfriend/girlfriend happy
  • Make a boyfriend/girlfriend do something
  • Get/find a boyfriend/girlfriend
  • Make a friend

...Unless you have programming skills. I recently read about a guy on TikTok who made a girlfriend with various types of AI. He grew pretty attached to her, until his flesh and blood girlfriend made him shut her down.

Looking in Google books, I see no more than 8 results for "made a girlfriend". Three of them are talking about robots. Some of the remainder don't even have publishing information to determine in what country they were published.

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    +1 What a relief to see a sensible answer. People get so caught up in what is linguistically pc, they miss the idiomaticity of the language.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 17:56
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    I have heard and seen e.g. 'I made him (or her)' meaning 'I accomplished the feat of seducing him (or her)', which seems to liken that act with e.g. a climber 'making' a mountain peak or a swimmer 'making' a distant shore. Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 11:43
  • It's not in Australian English either Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 0:08
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The ngram may be confusing a [possibly Indian] English usage of 'make' like you make a friend… but the kids may well be using it as in 'had sex with', a modern adaptation of 'made out' or even 'to achieve'.

I'd avoid using it at all if you aren't sure. One is perhaps dialectical and not universally recognised; the other is certainly not one for polite company.

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  • I'm sure I saw 'made' in that sense (had sex with) in the American novels I read 55 to 60 years ago. Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 21:11

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