This might be kind of vague, but I was thinking about this the other day. When someone asks "Who are you?", what are they really wanting to know? Is your name really enough to explain who you are? Maybe the answer represents what you think of yourself... or maybe I'm just taking this way too philosophically.

  • 1
    When anyone says "Who are you?" to me, I always want to respond with this. Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 3:50
  • You might simply plead justifiable confusion by responding with "I'm sorry, I don't understand."
    – ChrisO
    Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 4:39
  • 1
    'Who are you?' is up there with 'What do you do?' in the questions I least like to be asked. Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 7:30
  • I usually respond with.... "Who are YOU?"
    – user9954
    Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 6:13
  • 1
    name; why you are there (the possibly mutual connection that brought you to the same place).
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 13:44

7 Answers 7


If the situation is more social, it is more likely to be a request for an introduction. In that case responding with your name, and how you fit into the group socially ("I'm Joe, Jeff's friend from college.") should be fine.

If it is more professional, it is more likely to be a request for your role / function in the situation. "I'm Joe Smith, the lead programmer on project Y. I work with Mr. Gates's team."

It does depend on context, as well as the manner in which it is asked, though.


"maybe I'm just taking this way too philosophically". I think so. In common situations people tend to be more practical than philosophical.

When someone asks "Who are you?". Chances are they just want your name.

In some situations (if they interpret your presence as out of place or perhaps a even a threat) they might wan't your function. like Nabeel said, "I am the shop manager".

Maybe if a police officer ask you; tell him, "I am a wave of consciousness swirling wistfully through a reality of my own observation". Um, on second thought, tell him both your name and your function "my name is John, I'm the shop keeper".

  • While it is definitely context dependent, I think in most uses they want your relevant position along with your name. If they only want your name they are more likely to ask for that explicitly such as "What was your name again?" Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 0:45

When I hear the question asked of me, I tend to describe my role in whatever context is appropriate.


Good question! I think it depends on the situation. However, I think in most cases when someone is asked this question, he/she needs to identify their self ( e.g. I am the shop manager )


I answer with my name - that is the only answer which exactly answers the question. If they then ask, "What is your role?" or "What do you do?" I can answer that question as well.


If someone asks me "Who are you?", the context is what is important. If they are a snob, then it has a derogatory meaning. If they are simply asking your name, it has an entirely different meaning. If you answer with a self-congratulatory biography, then you sound arrogant in either situation. Therefore, the best response is "Who are you?", then respond in kind :)


It depends on the circumstance. In formal situations I take it as a "What do you do?" or "What is your job/role?". If people who know you asks this question, you may interpret it as "Who do you think you are?"

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