Titles in English

English Usage

Mr President & Mr Clooney

How would you address these two?

When we address people, we use certain conventions of style called Titles.

These come before a person’s name when we are talking about them (or to them).

They are usually used in formal situations or when we are being polite.

General Titles

These are general titles for men and women which we might use when we talk to someone we do not know well or when we want to show respect (e.g. to the parents of a friend, your boss, at an interview, etc).

TitleUse
Mister or Mrmen
Mrsmarried women
Missunmarried women/girls
Mswomen
Madamwomen (very formal)

All these words come before the person’s last name:

Good morning, Mister Bond. How are you today?

Can I speak to Mrs Jones, please?

Will Miss Moneypenny please come to reception?

Take this letter to Ms Galore’s office.

When we talk about a married couple, we often say:

Mr and Mrs Smith…

We can also use Mr or Madam before the title of someone very important when we are talking to them and put it with their office:

But Mister President, this would mean war!

I wish to object, Madam President!

Titles in the Classroom

In many countries teachers are addressed as Mr or Miss:

I haven’t done my homework, Mr Carter.

But Miss Jones, it’s time to go!

Notice that even though a female teacher may be married, she will often be addressed as Miss in the classroom.

When students talk to the teacher and do not use their last name, they usually use just sir or miss:

But Sir, the dog ate my homework!

Miss, can I go to the toilet please?

Other Titles

Aside from these usual titles above, there are many titles used to denote positions of authority or rank. These include:

General, Major, Colonel…

Archbishop, Rabbi…

President, Baron, King…

In the picture above, we have several options:

Mr Clooney & Mr Obama.

Mr George Clooney & President Obama

President Barack Obama and Mr Clooney.

Common Mistakes

In many countries and languages a title can go with the first name and if you are teaching abroad you may well hear this, however this is generally wrong in English:

* Mr John, can I leave early?

An asterisk means this is wrong.

A common mistake is also made by many Americans with British titles:

* Prime Minister Cameron…

In British English Prime Minister is not a title which goes alongside a name; instead it replaces the name.

* Sir Kingsley…

With Knights, the title goes with the first name and not the last.

Sir Ben or Sir Ben Kingsley

Useful Links

A long list of titles are here on Wikipedia.

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