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What should I call you?

What should I call you?? How to address people in English…(always better to be slightly more polite than the opposite…it makes a good impression.)

In the street : rather formal, you don’t know their name…

  • Excuse me Sir, for an adult male
  • Excuse me Madam, for an adult female (Ma’am (which rhymes with ham) in US)
  • Excuse me Miss, (rarely used now) for a young lady (if you don’t know whether she’s married or not, say Madam).
  • ‘Mister’ is US and quite informal ; ‘mon vieux’ in French

DO NOT USE : ‘Madame’ with FR pronunciation (brothel keeper) ‘Mistress’ (unless you are Shakespeare…)

In a letter/email :

  • Dear Sir, Dear Madam when you don’t know their name
  • Dear Mr Finch, Dear Mrs. Bones, when you know their last name
  • Dear John, Dear Janet, Hi/Hello John, Hi/Hello Janet, when you know their first name and use it normally in a friendly situation.

DO NOT USE : Dear Mr Peter Finch, Dear Mrs. Lesley Bones; Dear Mister, Dear Missus (la bourgeoise)

In a classroom : more or less formal setting you call your teachers…

  • Mrs. Smith, Mr Jones
  • Doctor Leroy, Professor Hamilton (unless they tell you differently)
  • “ Sir” & “Miss” is reserved for school kids in the days when married teachers had to leave their jobs and so the only ones left were spinsters….life has moved on…I don’t like being called Miss….

DO NOT USE ‘Teacher’ or ‘Doctor’ on their own.

At work :

  • Mr Allsopp, Mrs. Shepherd for the bosses (then they may say “call me David”, “call me Sandra” ; wait until they do so.
  • Most co-workers use first names, Peter, Paul, Mary….wait for the invitation to do so
  • ‘Mate’, ‘fella’, (UK) ‘man’ ‘dude’ (US) are very informal, again wait to see what others do.

In shops etc you might hear :

  • darlin’ or ‘love’ (typically Northern)
  • ‘Guv’ (short for Governor) typically Cockney
  • ‘My lover’ (in Somerset)!!
  • ‘Wack’ (in Liverpool)…
  • ‘Honey, babe’, (in the US) are for people who know each other very well!.

Formal Speeches : My Lords, (just in case!!) Ladies and Gentlemen……otherwise ‘Good Morning Everyone’ is more informal.

  • ‘My Lord’ for a judge or an Earl/Count, ‘My Lady’ for a Countess
  • ‘Your Grace’ for a Duke or a Duchess or an Archbishop..
  • ‘Your Excellency’ for an Ambassador
  • ‘Your Royal Highness’ for a member of the Royal Family, then Ma’am or Sir if the occasion arises!
  • ‘Your Majesty’ for the Sovereign, then Ma’am or Sir.

Odds & Sods :

  • ‘Reverend’ for a Protestant Vicar,
  • ‘Father’ for a Catholic priest,
  • ‘Sister’ for a nun; or Mother if it’s the Superior….
  • ‘Nurse+Last name’ for a Nurse,
  • ‘Doctor+Last name’ for a medical doctor.