In our country, Turkey, when someone wants to know if you're a freshman, or sophomore, or w/e (knowing if you're in high school, or in university) he/she usually says: (making a literal translation here)

Which grade/class are you (in)?

and you'd reply with

"Second grade/class." or "I'm a second grade/class student."

However, I've never seen this kind of reply, or rather question in English. How would you ask if you want to know the person's grade/class in university? And how the answer should be?

Besides that, my real intent for asking this is that I'm writing a paper (in English) and it concerns second-year students, but other people will also have access to that paper. That's why I want to indicate that it concerns only second-year students by adding a short text onto the cover page. I wanted to know what should I write to indicate that. I thought about

For second-years
For second-year students
For sophomore(s?)

but I'm not even sure if these fit, or if there's something better to say.

I think the title and tags might need a modification as I'm not sure if they match with the question.

  • Are you studying in the UK? Or in the US? Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 16:17
  • @Araucaria Neither. At least not yet. Would the place matter? If it does, both answers are okay. I want to know about alternatives too.
    – akinuri
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 16:25
  • 1
    In the UK a lot of people wouldn't know what you were talking about if you said sophomore. We just never use that term at all. Those of us that do know it, are mostly familiar with it from US television (and I'm never sure which year is the sophomore year!) Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 16:38
  • @Araucaria I see. I didn't know about it either. I did a quick search before posting the question. In here it says it's used for second-year students.
    – akinuri
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 16:49
  • 2
    For elementary and secondary education, the most common pattern in Anglophone countries is to count up the years of compulsory education, but there is great variation in how it is expressed. What is known in one place as Year 10 may be Grade 10 in another and Tenth grade in yet another— or Year 11 in a fourth. It would correspond to sophomore year in the U.S for a 9–12 high school, but may be a freshman in a 10–12 high school.
    – choster
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 17:40

2 Answers 2


This answer refers to American English, I expect it's different in the UK (and perhaps from one UK country to another).

If someone is in elementary, middle, or high school, we usually ask

What grade are you in?

and the answer would either be a number grade First grade through Twelfth grade, or a high school student might answer with freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior (when I went to school 40 years ago, grades 7-9 were often junior high school, so freshmen didn't usually identify themselves that way).

If they're in college/university, the question is usually

What year are you in?

and the answer would be freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, or graduate school.

  • This is just a note on @Barmar's response; but I think many university students will respond with the year they're in ("First year," "second year," etc.). In secondary school, you can get "held back" a year, so you might repeat the 10th grade. In university, you might take more or less time to graduate. So people would also answer "fifth year," if they spent five years at a four year institution. You'll also occasionally hear "third-year senior or fifth-year senior" which implies that they're in their third or fifth year, but anticipate graduating that year. Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 18:47
  • 1
    I would ask simply what year are you? but I would mainly note that while the freshman, sophomore, junior, senior hierarchy is well-understood in the U.S., the terminology in actual use varies at the collegiate level. The UCLA students I know use first-year, second-year, etc. terminology strictly, even though freshman and so forth are still defined in the course catalog. And in the service academies, an undergraduate in his or her second year has always been a third-class cadet or midshipman.
    – choster
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 20:24

In some contexts that sounds like a reasonable question but in reality, how often is anyone likely to meet a person from another culture and ask such a question and care more about the answer than the discussion? Less than 2% of the time, surely…

Having worked with many hundreds of university students I suggest that if this is going to happen more than two or three times, most of those will be after Fresher's Week plus a few, during which you will have learned the local lingo, beyond which it won't matter.

On the other hand, wouldn't that kind of confusion be a magnificent ice-breaker? A terrific way of getting into meaningful conversation with anyone of any orientation without giving away the fact that you were more interested in him or her personally than in the wholly pointless subject under detailed discussion?

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