Ms. vs. ma'am vs. madam [For doctor or nurse or hospital worker]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by jokaec, Dec 6, 2016.

  1. jokaec Senior Member

    Chinese - Hong Kong
    At a hospital, if I don't know the name of a female doctor or nurse. Can I call her "ms." or "ma'am" or "madam" in AmE? For instance, "hi, ms. or ma'am or madam, I feel pain ..."? Which one is most common in AmE? Thank you.
  2. Florentia52

    Florentia52 Modwoman in the attic

    English - United States
    If she's a doctor, you should address her as "Doctor."

    Here's a thread from earlier today about how to address a nurse:

    Nurse - Title of address
  3. jokaec Senior Member

    Chinese - Hong Kong
    Thank you, Florentia52.
    Sometimes, I don't even know if she is a doctor or nurse. From the thread you provided, it looks like "ms." is better choice. Am I right?
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 6, 2016
  4. Florentia52

    Florentia52 Modwoman in the attic

    English - United States
    Sorry; I linked to the wrong thread. If you're writing to a nurse, then yes, "Ms." is preferable.

    If I were addressing a woman working in a hospital, and I knew she was either a doctor or a nurse, but I didn't know which, I'd address her as "Doctor" and let her correct me if I was wrong. If reasonably sure she was a nurse, I'd address her as "Nurse." If I thought she was probably something else -- a unit clerk, for example -- I'd call her "Ma'am." We don't use "Ms." by itself as a form of address, and (in AE, at least), we don't use "Madam."
  5. waltern Senior Member

    English - USA
    Generally speaking, in AmE, "sir" and "ma'am" are polite forms of address that can be used for any man/woman and which will never be wrong.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2016
  6. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
  7. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Don't nurses wear uniforms in Hong Kong? In the old days they'd have caps too (I'm talking about female nurses, of course). And I would address them as 'Nurse'.

    In the past, in this part of the world, the nurse might be called 'Missy' and this is obviously not the recommended form today.
  8. jokaec Senior Member

    Chinese - Hong Kong
    Thank you all.
    Do you mean if I am sure she is a doctor/nurse, I would use "hello, doctor/nurse, I feel pain ...”. Otherwise, I use ma'am. Am I right? Why ms. is not preferable? Can I use ms. at school if I don't know she is a teacher or office clerk?
  9. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    No, you cannot use "Ms." "Ms." can only be used as an honorific with a name; unlike "Miss", it cannot be used by itself as a term of address.

    Thank you, Ms. Jones. :tick::thumbsup:
    Thank you, Ms. :cross: :thumbsdown:
  10. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    No, Ms. is used only as a title in front of a name, e.g., "Ms. Washington." (The same is true for Mrs.) Your choices in a hospital setting are "Doctor," "Nurse," "ma'am" or perhaps "miss," although I personally use the last one only for very young women, and most nurses are for me past the age of being called "miss."

    (Cross-posted with GreenWhiteBlue)
  11. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    It may not be the same everywhere, but when I was in hospital recently (in England) the nurses wore uniforms and the doctors wore ordinary clothes, sometimes with a white coat on top. So I'd say Hello Doctor or Hello Nurse.

    Ma'am comes across as very formal and old-fashioned as if you're addressing the Queen, while as the others have said, you only Ms in front of a surname.
  12. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Not in AmE. In AmE, ma'am is a perfectly ordinary way to respectfully address an adult woman - literally any adult woman. If I couldn't tell if a woman was a doctor or a nurse or a passing stranger, that's in fact exactly how I'd address her, e.g., "Ma'am, can you answer a question?"
  13. jokaec Senior Member

    Chinese - Hong Kong
    Thank you all.
    Compared to "ma'am", is "miss" a bit of frivolous? How about at school, I call the teacher if I know she is a teacher "hi, teacher...." or "hi, ma'am or miss" if I don't know she is a teacher or not?
  14. Florentia52

    Florentia52 Modwoman in the attic

    English - United States
    Here is a link to a thread on the use of "miss" in modern English.

    The discussion in this thread should continue to focus on the original question: "Ms." vs "ma'am" vs "madam" to address a doctor or nurse.

    Florentia52, moderator

Share This Page