My Japanese friend asked me if the following is true.

Mr. Smith (typical way of calling someone in a formal situation)

Mr. John (signifies that you have a very close relationship by using the first name instead of their last name)

Mr. Smith John (when you want to use the entire name no matter what)

For me, Mr. Smith John sounds more formal than Mr. Smith, and although Mr. John sounds less formal compared to Mr. Smith, I can't say it means the relationship is very close.

What does everyone think about this? Maybe I'm wrong?

  • This question is a duplicate, but short answer: Most cultures within the United States don't use "Mr." or "Mrs." or whatever with a first name, ever. (I think the same is true of Commonwealth English speakers, but one of them should answer.) Also, we never say "Mr. Lastname Firstname". (The only time that kind of structure is used is on lists where it's important to alphabetize by last name, where it would be written "Smith, John".)
    – stangdon
    Oct 19, 2017 at 13:30
  • @stangdon: As a BrE speaker, I can confirm the same is true. I have never come across "Mr [firstname]". ("Mr [firstname] [lastname]" has some currency, although it would rarely be used to address someone directly, and when it is used after "Dear" at the start of a letter, it is considered less correct than "Mr [lastname]".)
    – rjpond
    Oct 19, 2017 at 13:58

1 Answer 1


In modern English, the following is rarely used, though it has some local or regional currency:

Mr John

and the following is probably never used:

Mr Smith John

while these two forms are pretty much identical in usage:

Mr Smith

Mr John Smith

(although if addressing someone directly, or in the salutation of a letter, "Mr Smith" is preferred).

If you want to use the entire name then you always put the first name before the surname. (The excepion would be in an index or filing system, but here you probably wouldn't include the title "Mr", and if you did include it, it would go before the first name: "Smith, Mr John".)

It's true that you call someone "Mr Smith" in a formal situation, and that if you know them well you just call them by their first name ("John") - without any title. But in fact, you don't even have to know them well. Usually when people meet at a social occasion or gain a new work colleague they begin on first-name terms right from the start. This wasn't the case a hundred or even fifty years ago, but has been a strong trend over the last few decades.

The titles "Mrs" and "Ms" work the same way. The titles "Master" and "Miss" may occasionally be used with first names alone, but this usage is considered old-fashioned except in the southern US.

"Sir", on the other hand, if used as a title for a knight (rather than without a name as a polite way of addressing any male), comes before the first name (or sometimes the full name), not the surname: "Sir John Smith" or "Sir John", not "Sir Smith".

Spelling-wise, "Mr", "Mrs", "Ms" and "Dr" are almost always written without full stops in BrE, and with full stops in AmE ("Mr.", "Mrs.", etc). "Miss", "Master", "Sir" are written without full stops in both BrE and AmE.

  • I understood! Thank you for such a detailed explanation. I truly appreciate it.
    – Anna
    Oct 19, 2017 at 8:09
  • In the US, you could be addressed as "Miss Anna" in a tone of friendly respect, by someone who had never met you before, especially if you were in the US South, or they had come from the US South or their parents had. "Old-fashioned" is a relative term. Those who are old-fashioned are often simply traditional in their ways, especially in matters of politeness, and don't think of themselves as driving a horse-and-buggy.
    – TimR
    Oct 19, 2017 at 12:54
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo I wasn't trying to be patronising towards the US South. I simply didn't know that usage was still current.
    – rjpond
    Oct 19, 2017 at 13:56
  • @rjpond: Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you were. I was suggesting that these speakers don't see themselves as being decidedly anachronistic, as some members of the Society of Friends ("Quakers") do feel when they use the pronouns "thee" and "thou". The Mister/Miss {firstname} practice is quite widespread in the US South (and is still used by speakers from the South who have moved elsewhere) and those speakers feel they are simply being friendly and courteous. They understand their speech to be contemporary.
    – TimR
    Oct 19, 2017 at 14:22
  • 2
    @rjpond I'm from New Orleans, and I think that courtesy titles with first names express status and are therefore usually a one-way street: Mattie might address Scarlett as "Miss Scarlett," but Scarlet would not reciprocate with any title, but instead use just Mattie's first name. I think this is still very common and unremarkable. It can be a compromise between formality and familiarity, and it also distinguishes forms of address within a family, where everyone might have the same last name but different first names.
    – Chaim
    Oct 19, 2017 at 17:23

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