Mr, Mrs, Sir, Ma'am. . .[with and without periods?]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by shop-englishx, Feb 27, 2016.

  1. shop-englishx

    shop-englishx Senior Member

    Hello, native friends,

    Are the following correct when used with or without periods, e.g:

    Mr John --- Mr. John
    Mrs Katherine --- Mrs. Katherine
    Sir John --- Sir. John
    Ma'am Katherine --- Ma'am. Katherine
    Miss Katherine --- Miss. Katherine
    Dr John --- Dr. John
    Ms Katherine --- Ms. Katherine
    Prof John --- Prof. John (Prof -> Professor)
    Engr John --- Engr. John (Engr -> Engineer)

    Please enlighten me on this,

    Thanks a lot,
  2. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    Well for starters, none of them are correct, because we don't use a person's title with their first name, only with their surname (or with their full name: first name and surname). So 'Mr John Smith' or 'Mr Smith', but not 'Mr John'. We also don't use names with 'ma'am', you just say 'ma'am' on its own.

    The exception to this is 'Sir': you can say 'Sir John'. The female equivalent of 'Sir' is 'Dame'. That's assuming you are talking about people with a knighthood of course; you could address someone without a knighthood as 'sir' (without a name), in the same way as you would use 'ma'am' or 'madam'.

    But the answer to your question depends on whether you want to use British or American English. In British English we no longer use the full-stop after these abbreviations very much, but I believe they are more common in the US.
  3. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    We use the period with: Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., Prof.
    There is no period after: Sir or Miss.
    We do not use Ma'am as a title before a name.
    We do not use "engineer" as a title.
  4. shop-englishx

    shop-englishx Senior Member

    I wonder, then, why would it be correct to say Sir James:thumbsup:, but not Ma'am Parla:thumbsdown:?:confused::(
  5. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    Sir, in the UK, is an official title bestowed by the Queen of England. We would not use it before the name of an American man.

    "Ma'am" is not a title that goes before a name in either country.
  6. exgerman Senior Member

    English but my first language was German
    I believe that in Britain, there is generally no period after these honorifics, but in the USA there generally is. It depends on the house style of each publication whether the period is used or not.
  7. shop-englishx

    shop-englishx Senior Member

    Then, would it be totally wrong to use Sir before a man's name and Ma'am before a woman's name? (As non-natives here, in this forum, mostly do it, i.e, to show respect for the native-speakers.)
  8. Glenfarclas Senior Member

    English (American)
    Yes, totally wrong on a forum. You can use "Sir" before a man's name only if the person has been granted a knighthood by the Queen of England. Never use "Ma'am" before a woman's name; it cannot be used that way.
  9. shop-englishx

    shop-englishx Senior Member

    I'm wondering if BE speakers have the same views on using Sir only for the person who has been granted by the Queen of England (As Glen has said above). If this is the case, then how to address a man with a respectable manner? - this person may be your teacher, your boss who you are working for, or any other member of your family.

    Also, in India, students are taught to write Dear Sir/Ma'am when writing an application, letter for any cause - to ask for a sick leave, to ask for a relative's marriage leave etc. (It's so common here in Pakistani/Indian English speaking environment to call the elder "Sir+name of the person who you are addressing")

    I am very much surprised that why Sir+name can be wrong, as it is a usual honorific.

    Well, I want a BE speaker to chime in on that and clear this mess up.
  10. By-the-sea Member

    English - Scotland
    I can only repeat what others have said: you cannot use Sir + name unless that person has been knighted.

    'Sir' can of course be used on its own in the examples you mention (letter-writing (Dear Sir,) and addressing a teacher (Sir, can I...?)). But the cultures of India/Pakistan vis-a-vis the UK are very different, you would never address your boss as 'Sir' here unless it was a joke. It is sometimes used to address people in public usually the older generation. As in - Here you are sir. But generally these days we prefer a much less formal approach.
  11. shop-englishx

    shop-englishx Senior Member

    So, how would you, BE and AE speakers, address/call a person with respect? - A student to their teacher, An employee to their boss, A younger member of the family to their elder ones from the family or a random elderly person who you passes by on a road or in a street.
  12. joanvillafane Senior Member

    U.S., New Jersey
    U.S. English
    There is no one single term of respect for all the situations you name in post #11.
    The word "sir" here is used in the military (Yes, Sir!, Aye-aye, Sir!) and can sometimes be used (as By-the-Sea said) in a humorous way to convey a relationship based on power. It's not unusual to hear it, for example, if your boss asks you to do something and you reply, "Right away, Sir!"
    In classrooms, here, students usually address their teachers with their last names. Mr. Smith, Miss Jones, Mrs. Carter, etc.
    In families, we also address people by their relationship names, Grandma, Grandpa, Auntie Em.
  13. ain'ttranslationfun? Senior Member

    US English
    For what it's worth, I agree with just about everything posted above. At the risk of splitting hairs, to sum up, shop-e:
    'Sir' and 'Miss' are not contractions.
    The equivalent of the title 'Sir' is 'Dame' (GB). When addressing the person, we say 'Sir John', 'Dame Mary'. When referring to them, I think we'd say "Sir John' or 'Sir John Smith'; a British contributor to this thread could tell you when, if ever, we'd say 'Sir Smith'.
    'Ma'am' is the spoken contraction of 'Madam', used in writing only when reporting speech to represent someone's pronunciation, and not before a woman's name in any context. To indicate stilted speech, we could say "They were all 'Sir'-ing and 'Ma'am'-ing one another."
    The period after Mr, Mrs, Dr is AE, and is used when writing about them; when writing to them, I'd spell Doctor and Mister in full, but there is no full spelling for Mrs; I think it originally meant 'Mistress'.
    A 'madam' is a woman who runs a brothel.
    Staff will use Sir or Ma'am in addressing a client/customer. In talking to another staff member in the presence of a client, the latter will be referred to as 'this gentleman' or 'this lady'.
    Mrs and Miss are being replaced by Ms (on both sides of the Atlantic, I think).
    Note that letters to the editor
    begin 'Sir' (without 'Dear').
    And finally, joanv's #12 answered your #11, I think; 'Sir' is often used to (transparently) mask hostility by (over)politeness: "Good day to you, sir!" (understood: "...and f*** you!").
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2016
  14. AutumnOwl Senior Member

    According to Oxford Dictionaries it's also this (in the U.K.):
    madam - definition of madam in English from the Oxford dictionary

    Brothel keeper came as #3.
  15. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)

    I wouldn't feel at all embarrassed to address a stranger in the street as "Sir", as in: "Excuse me, Sir, is this wallet yours? I think you just dropped it." (Pronounced /sə/.)

    And when I ran an office that dealt with the public, I certainly used to say: "Good morning Sir, what can I do for you?"

    But these are direct forms of address, not titles. The only person I ever knew who was granted the title Sir was a headmaster called Sir Godfrey Cretney*. Before the award he was called Mr. Cretney, after the award Sir Godfrey by staff and pupils alike.

    * Sixty years to celebrate Wolverhampton classrooms where stars were created « Express & Star
  16. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    Traditionally, if you want to be polite, you should use 'sir/madam' on their own if you don't know someone's name, or 'Mr/Mrs Smith' if you do, until you are invited to use their first name. If you know that they have a title such as 'Dr' then you can call them 'Dr Smith'. And obviously if a woman is not married she is 'Miss Smith'.

    A student would address their teacher as 'Mr/Mrs/Miss Smith'. Some people might address them as 'sir' or 'miss', but that is increasingly considered old-fashioned.

    As for employees to their boss, it depends on the specific context. Generally speaking the same rule applies as above: 'Mr/Mrs/Miss Smith' until told otherwise, unless they are the same age as or younger than you and not very high ranking, in which case you can usually use their first name.

    Younger family members to elders would use the name of their relationship: 'mum, dad, granny, grandma, grandpa, aunty, uncle,' usually followed by a first name in the case of aunties and uncles ('uncle Joe', 'aunty Marie', but not 'grandma marie' or 'grandpa joe').
  17. Hildy1 Senior Member

    English - US and Canada
    In response to post #14, by AutumnOwl:
    One may certainly say "madam" when addressing a woman politely. That is not the same as saying that the woman is "a madam". That's an entirely different matter.
  18. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    Not for the past, oh, thirty or so years. In the US, at least, probably the majority of women prefer the honorific "Ms.", which ignores marital status, just as "Mr." ignores a man's marital status.

    Of course if you know that a particular woman prefers to be known by an honorific revealing her marital status, it's courteous when addressing (or writing) her to use "Mrs." or "Miss" to reflect that preference.
  19. ain'ttranslationfun? Senior Member

    US English
    Student to teacher (more GB, I think) "Sir/Ma'am", but in the States, students often ask their teachers questions without any title, except maybe in college "Professor" when appropriate. In some universities, students call their TAs (teaching assistants - doctoral students who are working off their tuition by teaching e.g. "[Language] 101") by their first names. For that matter, in English, we don't have the problem of formal and informal address, everbody is "you" - easier for all concerned.
  20. london calling Senior Member

    Please don't generalise. I called my grandparents Grandpa Joe and Grandma Lena.;)
  21. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    We are talking about spoken English. If you pronounce 'Ms' differently to 'Miss' in America then fair enough. But in my exprience 'Ms' is basically synonymous with 'Miss' since few married women prefer to be addressed as 'Ms'.

    I was not generalising, I was just wrong. I have never encountered that before.
  22. Englishmypassion

    Englishmypassion Senior Member

    India - Hindi
    You don't know Indian teachers and bosses. Address your teachers or bosses by their names in India only if you love zero marks on your report card or being fired. :eek: Only "sir"/"madam" or "ma'am" is used here. Generally speaking.
    In the third person, students/employees use "sir/madam" after their teachers'/bosses' first/last name. But that's Indian English.
  23. RedwoodGrove

    RedwoodGrove Senior Member

    English, USA
    Oh, here in the U.S we encourage that sense of familiarity by only using the first name and then when your superior (teacher or boss) stabs you in the back you can thank him or her using their first name. :)
  24. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    That may be true in the UK. It's not so in the US.
  25. Englishmypassion

    Englishmypassion Senior Member

    India - Hindi
    Nor in India. Here, most married women rather love to be addressed as "Ms", I think.
  26. ain'ttranslationfun? Senior Member

    US English
    Re Parla's #3, Since in the military people are addressed by their rank, if we can say '"Bo'sun Jones", "Corporal Clegg" ;), etc. can't we say "Engineer Smith", in this context?
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2016
  27. london calling Senior Member

    Engineer is a professional title, not a rank. I would personally find it rather odd (although it's perfectly normal in other languages, as I think you are aware:)).
  28. london calling Senior Member

    Right ain't:), but unfortunately that doesn't apply here.

    It is odd that in English we rarely use professional titles with surnames, the main exceptions being Dr or Prof. Another one that comes to mind is Chef (and there must be others).
  29. ain'ttranslationfun? Senior Member

    US English
    So it doesn't, l c; removed.
  30. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    Perhaps you can explain to me how it is possible to address someone as 'Ms', which (at least in my dialect) is pronounced identically to 'Miss'.
  31. joanvillafane Senior Member

    U.S., New Jersey
    U.S. English
    In AE they are pronounced differently. Ms. - with a final /z/ sound. Miss with /s/
  32. Englishmypassion

    Englishmypassion Senior Member

    India - Hindi
    "Ms" is pronounced "miz".
  33. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    In my accent we tend to devoice final sounds such as 'z' so that distinction is difficult to convey. I can't speak for all Brits however.
  34. Englishmypassion

    Englishmypassion Senior Member

    India - Hindi
    Thanks. By the way, even if you addressed married Indian women as "Miss", most would be equally happy or even happier and prouder, I think. But you know, that's my personal opinion.
  35. london calling Senior Member

    I say /məz/ when I say it, which is not very often.

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