Formal English Greeting Etiquette

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

One concern ELLs have is how to greet people in English using appropriate words and body language. This lesson provides ELLs with phrases, etiquette tips and conversation topics to help make formal English greetings an enjoyable experience.

Formal Greetings in English

Meeting someone for the first time can be difficult, especially if you're an English language learner (ELL) and it isn't your first language. What should you say? What should you do? What's considered rude, and what's considered polite?

Formally greeting another person in English can seem intimidating. However, if you learn a few basic phrases and follow a few simple tips, you'll be able to meet anyone from a new manager at work to a government official with confidence and poise.

Formal Titles

One of the first things to think about when you meet someone is his or her title. Titles in English depend on a number of things. Take a look at the following list and see how many you already know.


  • Miss: used when saying the full name of a younger woman, as in Miss Jane Smith
  • Ms.: pronounced the same as miss and used when you don't know if the woman is married, for example, Ms. Sara Jones
  • Mrs.: used when a woman has taken her husband's name, like Mrs. Williams
  • Ma'am: the most formal way to address an older woman or a woman in a position of authority


  • Mr.: pronounced mister and can be used for all men, as in Mr. John Fletcher
  • Sir: a very formal way to address a male

Titles for Both Genders

  • Doctor (Dr.)
  • Professor (Prof.)

If someone is a doctor or professor, use the titles, no matter if they are a man or a woman.

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