We can use names and titles when we talk about people, and when we talk to them. There are differences.
When we talk about people, we can name them in four ways.
a. First name.
This is informal. We use first names mostly to talk about friends and children.
- Where’s Peter? He said he’d be here at three.
How’s Maud getting on at school?
b. First name + surname.
This can be formal or informal.
- Isn’t that Peter Connolly, the actor?
We ‘re going on holiday with Mary and Daniel Sinclair.
c. Title (Mr, Mrs etc) + surname.
- This is more formal. We talk like this about people we do not know, or when we want to show respect or be polite.
Can I speak to Mr Lewis, please?
We’ve got a new teacher called Mrs Campbell Ask Miss Andrews to come in, please.
Dear Ms Sanders, . . .
d. Surname only
We often use just the surname to talk about public figures — politicians, sportsmen and sportswomen, writers and so on.
- I don’t think Eliot s a very good dramatist.
The women’s marathon was won by Waitz.
We sometimes use surnames alone for employees (especially male employees), and for members of all-male groups (for example footballers, soldiers, schoolboys).
- Tell Patterson to come and see me at once.
Let’s put Billows in goal and move Carter up.
When we talk to people, we can name them in two ways.
a. First name
- This is usually friendly and informal.
Hello, Pamela. How are you?
b. Title + surname.
- This is more formal or respectful.
Good morning, Mr Williamson.
Note that we do not usually use both the first name and the surname of people we are talking to. It would be unusual to say ‘Hello, Peter Matthews , for example.
Note also that we do not normally use Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms alone. If you want to speak to a stranger, for example, just say Excuse me, not Excuse me, Mr or Excuse me, Mrs (see 3 below).
Note the pronunciations of the titles:
/Wr/’mist8(r)/ Mrs /’misiz/ Miss/mis/ Ms/miz, msz/
Mr( = Mister) is not usually written in full, and the others cannot be.
Ms is used to refer to women who do not wish to have to say whether they are married or not.
Dr (/’dDkt8(r)/) is used as a title for doctors (medical and other). Professor (abbreviated Prof) is used only for certain high-ranking university teachers.
Note that the wives and husbands of doctors and professors do not share their partners’ titles. We do not say, for example, Mrs Dr Smith. Sir and madam are used mostly by shop assistants. Some employees call their male employers sir, and some schoolchildren call their male teachers sir. (Female teachers are often called miss.)
Dear Sir and Dear Madam are ways of beginning letters (see 192). In other situations sir and madam are unusual.
Excuse me. Could you tell me the time? (NOT Excuse me, sir, . . .)