First Name, Last Name or Title?
Talking TO People
There are different ways to talk to people depending on your relationship and the situation. Here are the basics of using first name, titles, and other forms in spoken English.
First Name Only
Use the first name in informal and friendly situations. Use first name with your friends, co-workers, acquaintances and fellow students.
Hi, Tom. Do you want to go to a film tonight? - Man to his friend
Excuse me, Mary. What did you think of that presentation yesterday? - Woman to a co-worker in the office
Do you know the answer to number seven, Jack? - Student to another student
If you are speaking with co-workers in the office about work, use a first name. However, if you are speaking to a supervisor or someone you manage, you may have to use a title and last name in more formal situations. The use of first name or title depends on the atmosphere in the office. Traditional businesses (banks, insurance companies, etc.) tend to be more formal. Young companies, such as internet companies, are often very informal.
Ms. Smith, could you come to the meeting this afternoon? - Supervisor speaking to a subordinate at work
Here is the report you asked for Mr. James. - Man to his supervisor
Title and Last Name
Use the title (Mr, Mrs, Ms, etc.) and last name in formal situations such as meetings, public speaking, or when speaking to superiors at work or school. Remember that some work places prefer an informal tone between management and staff. It's best to begin using a title and last name (Hello, Ms Anders!) and change if your supervisors ask you to use a first name basis.
Good morning Ms Johnson. Did you have a good weekend? - Student to her teacher
Mr Johnson, I'd like to introduce you to Jack West from Chicago. - Employee introducing a colleague to his supervisor
Talking ABOUT People
Speaking about other people also depends on the situation. Generally, in informal situations use first names. In more formal situations, use the title and last names. In addition to these choices, there are a few other possibilities.
First Name Only
Used in informal situations with friends and co-workers.
Have you heard that Mary is moving to Los Angeles? - Boy speaking to his friend
Peter's getting a promotion next month. - Woman speaking to a co-worker
Last Name Only
When speaking about public figures such as actors and politicians, it is also quite common to use just the last name.
Bush is finally leaving soon! - One man to another
Nadal is a monster on the court. - A tennis player speaking to his doubles partner
Sometimes, supervisors might use just the last name when speaking to a co-worker. Generally, this means the supervisor is not too happy.
Jones hasn't completed the report on time. - Boss complaining to another manager
Ask Anderson to come into the office as soon as he gets in. - Supervisor speaking to a co-worker
First and Last Name
Use both the first and last name in informal and formal situations in order to be more specific in identifying a person.
Frank Olaf was promoted to department head last week. - One co-worker to another
Isn't that Susan Hart over there? - One friend to another
Title and Last Name
Use the title and last name in more formal situations. Use this form when showing respect and / or being polite.
I think Ms Wright assigned some homework. - One student to a teacher
I think Mr Adams is the best candidate. - One voter speaking to another voter at a rally
By Kenneth Beare, About.com Guide