Addressing someone

Addressing someone
When you talk to someone, you sometimes use their name. You can sometimes use their title, if they have one. Sometimes you use a word that shows how you feel about them, for example `darling' or `idiot'. Words used to address people are called vocatives.
Vocatives are not as common in English as in some other languages. They are less common in British English than in American English.
position of vocatives
If you use a vocative, you usually use it at the end of a sentence.

I told you he was okay, Phil.

Where are you staying, Mr Swallow?

Yes, George.

When you want to get someone's attention, you use a vocative at the beginning of a sentence.

John, how long have you been at the university?

Dad, why have you got that suit on?

A vocative can also be used between clauses or after the first group of words in a clause. People often do this to emphasize the importance of what they are saying.

I must remind you, Mrs Babcock, that I did warn you of possible repercussions from failure to take your medication.

Don't you think, John, it would be wiser to wait?

writing vocatives
When you are writing speech down, you separate a vocative from words in front of it or after it using a comma.

Don't leave me, Jenny.

John, do you think that there are dangers associated with this policy?

addressing someone you do not know
If you want to say something to someone you do not know, for example in the street or in a shop, you do not usually use a vocative at all. You say `Excuse me' if you need to attract their attention. For more information about the use of `Excuse me', see entry at ↑ Apologizing.
In modern English, the titles `Mr', `Mrs', `Miss', and `Ms' are only used in front of names. You should not use them on their own to address people you do not know, nor should you use `gentleman' or `lady'. You should not use `sir' or `madam' either; these words are normally only used by people who work in shops to address customers politely.
It is usually considered old-fashioned to use a word that indicates the person's job, such as `officer' (to a policeman). However, `doctor' and `nurse' can be used.

Is he all right, doctor?

Some people use `you' to address someone whose name they do not know, but this is very impolite.
addressing someone you know
If you know the surname of the person you are talking to, you can address them using their title (usually `Mr', `Mrs', or `Miss') and surname. This is fairly formal.

Thank you, Mr Jones.

Goodbye, Dr Kirk.

Titles showing a person's rank can be used without a surname after them.

I'm sure you have nothing to worry about, Professor.

Good evening, Captain.

Is that clear, Sergeant?

`Mr' and `Madam' are sometimes used in front of the titles `President', `Chairman', `Chairwoman', and `Chairperson'.

No, Mr President.

See entry at ↑ Names and titles for information on titles that are used with names.
People do not usually address other people using their first name and surname. The only people who use this form of address are presenters of radio and television programmes talking to their guests.
If you know someone well, you can address them using their first name. However, people do not usually do this in the course of an ordinary conversation, unless they want to make it clear who they are talking to.

What do you think, John?

Shut up, Simon!

It's not a joke, Angela.

Short, informal forms of people's names, such as `Jenny' and `Mike', are sometimes used as vocatives. However, you should not use a form like this unless you are sure that the person does not object to it.
addressing relatives
People address their parents and grandparents using a noun that shows their relationship to them.

Someone's got to do it, mum.

Sorry, Grandma.

The following list shows the commonest nouns that people use to address their parents and grandparents:
`Aunt' and `Uncle' are also used as vocatives, usually in front of the person's first name. The more informal word `Auntie' (or `Aunty') can be used on its own.

This is Ginny, Aunt Bernice.

Goodbye, Uncle Harry.

I'm sorry, Auntie Jane.

Hello, auntie.

Nouns indicating other family relationships, such as `daughter', `brother', and `cousin' are not used as vocatives.
addressing a group of people
If you want to address a group of people formally, for example at a meeting, you say `ladies and gentlemen' (or `ladies' or `gentlemen', if the group is not mixed).

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

If you want to address a group of people informally, you can use `everyone' or `everybody', although it is not necessary to use any vocative.

I'm so terribly sorry, everybody.

If you want to address a group of children or young people, you can use `kids'. You can use `boys' or `girls' if the group is not mixed.

Come and say `How do you do?' to our guest, kids.

Give Mr Hooper a chance, boys.

Girls, a really bad thing has come up.

The use of `children' as a vocative is formal.
vocatives showing dislike
People show dislike, contempt, or impatience using nouns and combinations of nouns and adjectives as vocatives, usually with `you' in front of them.

No, you fool, the other way.

Shut your big mouth, you stupid idiot.

Give it to me, you silly girl.

vocatives showing affection
Vocatives showing affection are usually used by themselves.

Goodbye, darling.

Come on, love.

Some people use `my' or the person's name in front of affectionate vocatives, but this usually sounds old-fashioned or humorous.

We've got to go, my dear.

Oh Harold darling, why did he die?

other vocatives
People who are serving in shops, or providing a service to the public, sometimes politely call male customers or clients `sir' and female ones `madam'.

A liqueur of any kind, sir?

`Thank you very much.' —-`You're welcome, madam.'

A number of words, such as `love', `dear', and `mate', are used by people in informal situations to address other people, including people they do not know. These vocatives are often characteristic of a region or a social group, or both.

She'll be all right, mate.

Trust me, kid.

You are advised not to use any of these vocatives, because they would sound inappropriate from someone who is not a native speaker from a particular region.

Useful english dictionary. 2012.

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