How To Address People In English

How can you address people in English when you meet them? What are the different greetings when you meet men, women or VIPs? What titles should you use?

In British English, the greetings are different in formal and informal situations, and whether you’re greeting one person or a group.

Here’s a list of greetings that you can bookmark!

Ladies and gentlemen
This is a more formal greeting for a group of men and women.

If you group is all women, you can use this form of address. It can be used in neutral and formal situations.

Use this greeting if you’re addressing a group of men only. It can be used in neutral and formal situations.

This is a more informal greeting for a group of men. You’ll also sometimes hear it for men and women.

(Excuse me) Everyone!
If you want to get the attention of a group of men and women in an informal situation, you can also call out “Excuse me everyone!”

First name
Use someone’s first name when you’re friends and colleagues.

Title and last name
Use a title (Mr, Mrs or Ms) and the last name when you’re in a more formal situation, or for people you don’t know. You could also use this form with your boss (until she / he asks you to use their first name).

Last name only
Some men might use this form with a younger (male) colleague. For example:
“Lewis! What are you doing?”

Professional titles
Here are some occasions when you can use the title only, or the title plus last name:
Doctor (for a medical professional)
Professor (for a university lecturer)
Father (+ first name – for a priest)

There are many ways you can address a man depending on the situation.

This is quite formal. You can use it when you don’t know the man, and often in shops / other service-type situations. For example:
“Can I help you sir?”

This is common between male friends. For example:
“Alright mate?”

This is the equivalent of “sir”. For example:
“Can I help you madam?”

Informal greetings
Women can use lots of ways to greet each other. For example:
Ducks (in north England)
Flower (in south west England)
Love / Lovely

(It can sound strange if a man uses these greetings to women.)

If you ever meet a very important person, here are some things you should remember.

The Queen
The first time you speak to the Queen (and you have to wait for her to speak first) you should use the title Your Majesty.

After that, you can address her as “Ma’am” (rhymes with “ham”).

On paper, the Queen is referred to as HM. (“Her Majesty”.)

Other members of the royal family
Address all other members of the royal family as “Your royal highness”.
On paper these people are addressed as “His Royal Highness” or “Her Royal Highness” – both abbreviated to HRH.

You can address an ambassador as “Your Excellency”.

World religious leaders
Address both the Pope and the Dalai Lama as “Your Holiness”.

When you know how to talk to people, and which phrases to use, you feel more confident.
I show you how to improve your conversation skills and how to speak with more authority in the self-study course ‘Advanced English Speaking In 100 Steps‘.
You also get my guides to slang and informal English!
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