Capitalize Sir or Ma'am (for teachers) in direct address

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Jeffmonac, Mar 21, 2017.

  1. Jeffmonac New Member

    English-Philippines
    Should the words 'sir' and 'madam' (for teachers) be capitalized when used in direct address?

    Is it, "Good morning, Sir!" or
    "Good morning, sir!"?

    Thank you for answering.
     
  2. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    "Good morning, sir!" :thumbsup:

    (I have not heard a teacher addressed as "madam" - It used to be "miss" often regardless of marital condition, or for the older teacher, "ma'am". Then there was a change, to what I believe is the current, Mrs/Miss Jones (or whatever the name.)
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2017
  3. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Agreed. No capitalisation if it is a plain vocative, in the same ways as you would write, 'Good morning, children'.

    If it is used as a name substitute (eg 'Would sir like to examine our homework?'), some people might capitalise the word.
     
  4. Lun-14

    Lun-14 Senior Member

    Hindi
    Could you please let me know what a 'plain vocative' is and explain why capitalization is unneeded in this case?
    Sorry for my ignorance!
    Thanks.
     
  5. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Sorry, a vocative is a noun or noun phrase that functions term of address and isn't integrated into the clause structure. Examples in bold:

    That's very nice, my dear.
    Boys and girls, can you please listen to me very carefully?

    Our convention of capitalisation is for names. Vocatives need not be names, as in the examples above. Sir and ma'am/madam are the same. If the vocative is a name, we of course capitalise the normal way.

    That's very nice, John.
     
  6. Lun-14

    Lun-14 Senior Member

    Hindi
    Thanks a lot.
    Could you please let me know where you would capitalize 'sir' and 'ma'am'? Also, please clarify the difference between "ma'am" and 'madam'. (it's very confusing to know where one should use 'ma'am' and 'madam':mad:)
    Thanks.
     
  7. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I would capitalise the words if they function as poper nouns (on their own or with other names).

    I was thrilled to see Sir Cliff at the shops.
    Would Sir like some wine with his meal?
    Dear Sir,

    (This thread is about capitalisation. We need another thread about ma'am v. madam.)
     
  8. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    You need to use capitals in the opening of a letter which starts "Dear Sir" or "Dear Madam", and also where it's part of somebody's title, as in "Sir Winston Churchill."

    PS: You might find this previous thread helpful for your ma'am/madam query:
    Addressing old, young and in between people: Sir, Ma'am
    :)

    [cross-posted]
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2017
  9. Lun-14

    Lun-14 Senior Member

    Hindi
    Thanks, both of you, for your help.

    If I don't capitalize 'sir', 'madam' here where you have capitalized (see your bold), would it mean that I am going to address a common man i.e. a stranger who we pass by in a street, a shopkeeper etc.? (I think by 'proper nouns' in your #7, natkretep, you mean the people who hold a high social position in the society, like president, prime minister, writers, actors, singers and highly qualified professionals etc, right?)

    Thanks.
     
  10. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    No: we always capitalize "Sir" like that regardless of who the person is. We wouldn't use a lower-case 'sir' to address a letter to a 'common' man.
     
  11. Hermione Golightly

    Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    London
    British English
    If you are talking to a stranger in the street, it doesn't matter if it's spelt with a capital or not!
     
  12. Lun-14

    Lun-14 Senior Member

    Hindi
    I know that. I meant, by my previous post, whether or not you capitalize 'sir'/'ma'am' in case you are writing something to someone e.g. a shopkeeper etc.
     
  13. Jeffmonac New Member

    English-Philippines
    Will it be correct to use the word 'sir' as substitute for a name, hence capitalize it like in the case of:

    'Good morning, John!' (Teacher John)
    We say, 'Good morning, Sir!'?
     
  14. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    No. It does not matter at all if you consider "sir" to be a substitute (and, in fact, it is not a substitute - it is the correct form of address.)
     
  15. Jeffmonac New Member

    English-Philippines
    What about this, should I write,
    'Thank you, sir Paul!' or
    'Thank you, Sir Paul!'?

    Thank you, sir, for enlightening me.
     
  16. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    You should write neither.
    'Thank you, sir Paul!'-> (i) you do not use both a form of address and a name.
    'Thank you, Sir Paul!' -> this is only possible if I have the honorary and noble title of "Sir" (i.e. instead of being "Mr Paul Q", the Queen has given me the title of "Sir" and thus I become "Sir Paul Q.")

    (And if Her Majesty is reading this, "I would accept the title."... :D)
     
  17. heypresto

    heypresto Senior Member

    South East England
    English - England
    Only in the case of someone like Sir Paul McCartney.

    I'm afraid PaulQ, as much as he no doubt deserves a knighthood, isn't addressed as sir (or Sir) Paul.

    Cross-posted.
     
  18. Jeffmonac New Member

    English-Philippines
    Here in the Philippines, it became a custom to use the word 'sir' not only to address a member of the nobility but also to refer to a male teacher. Here, we say, Sir John or Teacher John. I'm a bit confused on how to correctly use 'sir' (teacher) in a direct address, though we also use the title 'Mr.' plus the surname. It's with the word sir that I'm having problem with.

    Shall I write, 'Good morning, Sir Paul!'
    and 'Good morning, Ma'am Meriam!'?

    Thank you, sir, for the clarifications.
     
  19. heypresto

    heypresto Senior Member

    South East England
    English - England
    If you are writing to your teacher, then I'd suggest addressing them Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms Smith (or whatever their surname/family name is).

    If you are talking to them, then it's either 'Good morning sir, or miss' or 'Good morning Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms Smith'. This would depend on your teacher's preference.

    But in neither case would you say or write 'sir (or Sir) Paul'. And there is no context in which 'Ma'am Meriam' would be correct.

    Of course, I can only talk about BE usage. If it's different in the Philippines, then you should follow those usages and conventions.
     
  20. Barque Senior Member

    India
    Tamil
    I don;t think Natkretep meant that. By proper nouns, he meant proper nouns.

    You capitalise "Sir" as a form of address in a letter because it's supposed to be capitalised in that context, not on the basis of who you're writing to - whether he's a "common man" or a privileged person..
     
  21. CAMullen Senior Member

    Amesbury
    US, English
    In my experience, whatever you use to address someone is capitalized. You may call a stranger "Sir," even if he is not knighted. Also, it is not a matter of unequal status; one could say, "Buddy, could you pass the salt please?" at the breakfast counter.
     
  22. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    Yes, but we do not know if you are capitalising "Buddy" because it is at the beginning of the sentence or because you would write (not say)

    "Could you pass the salt please Buddy?" or "Could you pass the salt please buddy?"
     
  23. CAMullen Senior Member

    Amesbury
    US, English
    Right - thanks, Buddy. :)
     
  24. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    "Buddy" looks as if it is my name - the lowercase works better for me. :)
     
  25. CAMullen Senior Member

    Amesbury
    US, English
    I see what you mean, Sir; but we had better stop before we get chastised...
     
  26. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Welcome to the Forum, Jeffmonac! :)

    The convention that you describe is not something familiar to many English speakers, and I think your question is if you needed to quote someone using the convention in the Philippines, would you capitalise 'Sir'.

    I have heard the 'Teacher + given name' (eg Teacher Jane) convention here in nursery school, as a way of showing respect but yet friendliness with the use of the given name. You could argue that 'Teacher' functions like some kind of a title in the way that some people might say Chef Ramsay and Prime Minister May or Cousin Matthew (as in Downton Abbey), and so I'd be happy with writing Teacher John.

    If 'Sir' functions as an alternative to teacher (again, I have heard this before in this part of the world, eg 'Are you the sir here?' = 'Are you the (male) teacher here?'), we should logically also capitalise Sir. The problem for many English speakers is the one raised by others: it now looks as if the person has been knighted! I'd say that if the text was for Filipinos who understand the convention, you should write Sir John. If it will be read be others, you need to explain the convention or avoid the difficulty by not capitalising sir: sir John.
     
  27. Lun-14

    Lun-14 Senior Member

    Hindi
    Hi Nat,
    I do understand the term 'proper noun', but I've a little trouble grasping what sort of person you're referring to here - is 'Sir Cliff' a knighted person, a president, a writer, a teacher, a singer, a fellow forum member, or just an ordinary friend of yours?
    I know that you've used 'Sir' in place of the person's name in your second example, but, again, who is that who you are calling 'Sir'?
    Could you please clear up my this confusion?

    --------------------------------------------
    SECONDLY, once you let me know who 'Sir Cliff' or 'Sir' (your 2nd exp.) are, would you use a lower-case 'sir' for him?
    e.g.
    I was thrilled to see sir Cliff at the shops.
    Would sir like some wine with his meal?

    Please elaborate on that.


    Thanks s lot.
     
  28. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Please do look up a dictionary for 'proper noun'.

    I was referring to someone who has been knighted by the Queen. Cliff Richard is Sir Cliff.

    The second example was of a waiter talking to a customer. Many people might prefer not the capitalise sir there.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2017

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