Addressing People


Names and titles are used both when talking about people and when talking to people.


When we talk about people we can address them in four ways. Each of them is related to a specific kind of situation:

first name

We use first name mostly in informal conversation with relatives, friends or children.

  • Josh really gets on my nerves.

first name + surname

We use full name in neutral situation – neither particularly formal nor particularly informal.

  • I work together with Lucy Sinclair.

title + surname

We use title + surname in formal situations.

  • Can I speak to Mr Smith?

surname only
We use just the surname to talk about famouse people – politicians, sportsmen, writers, etc.

  • I like Hemingway. I’ve read all his books.


When we talk to people we generally name them in one of two ways depending on the kind of situation.

first name
We use surnames in informal situations when talking to family members, friends and children.

  • Hello, Tom. I haven’t seen you for ages.

We don’t usually use both the first name and the surname of a person that we are talking to.

  • Hello, Tom Lewis. I haven’t seen you for ages.

title + surname

We use title in connection with surname in formal situations and when we want to be polite and respectful.

  • Good morning, Miss Sandres.

title only

in Britain
Sir and madam are used in Britain mostly by people in service occupations – shop assistants, receptionists, chambermaids, etc.

  • How can I help you sir?

in USA

In American English, sir and madam are less formal than in British English, and are quite often used.

How to use titles?

Addressing men

  • When we address men with their surname we use:
    Full form is Mister. Mr in not normally written in full.
  • When we address men without their surname we use:

Addressing women

Addressing women depends on their family status.

  • Addressing married woman:
  • Addressing single woman

We never use full form for Mrs and Ms.

  • If we don’t know the marital status of the particular woman, we may just ask or to use the Ms. title:
    Miss is used only in full form.
Jane: Hi Martha, what’s up?
Martha: Hey Jane. Nothing much. What brings you here?
Jane: I’ve brought a package for your boss. Is he already here?
Martha: Mr Crosby? Not yet, but you can wait for him if you want.
Jane: Cool. How have you been?
Martha: Busy. Jack, my eldest, has been sick and Tom’s got a new teacher.
Jane: He or she?
Martha: He. Why?
Jane: Nothing, just asking. What is he like?
Martha: Fitzgerald? He’s been a cool guy so far. Tom says he’s far much better than Smith. Anyway, did you see tennis yesterday?
Jane: Sadly not. My new bf is all eager into basketball so we were watching it. Who won?
Martha: Safarova. She was excellent! Oh… Good morning, Mr Crosby.
Jane: Good morning, Sir.
Mr Crosby: Morning, ladies. Jane, do you have any messages for me?
Martha: Yes, sir. Mrs Brown called an hour ago to confirm your appointment and …
Mr Crosby: What about Steve Martins? Has he already stopped by?
Martha: Not yet, sir. But Marge Simmers wanted me to set up a quick meeting with you and Jane
here brought you a package.
Mr Crosby: Thank you Martha. Jane, would you follow me, please?
Jane: Of course, sir. See you, Martha.
Martha: Have a nice day, Mr Crosby. Bye Jane.
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Gabriela Kašparová
Lector and language consultant. Studied English at the Faculty of Education. Having worked as an English tutor at nursery school, she got experience with working with children with learning disability. During her 8-year experience with teaching adults she has implemented her findings from learning children and has created simple and transparent explanations of complicated grammar features. Teaching both children and adults, she keeps encouraging them not to fear a foreign language and to learn with pleasure.



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