In Italian, signore or signor (equivalent to Mr. or sir, depending on the context) can be used together with other titles, for example with dottore ("doctor"), or military ranks (e.g. capitano, "captain").

In particular with the military ranks, there is a difference between Signor Capitano and Capitano. When speaking with other soldiers, Signor Capitano would mean:

  • My rank is lower than Captain
  • I am speaking with somebody whose rank is higher than mine

Can sir be used with other titles?
What is the equivalent of Signor Capitano, said by someone who has a rank lower than Captain?

To be clear, I am not using sir as title, but as word to respectfully address a man (which is the usage signore has in Italian).


3 Answers 3


Sir as a respectful term of address is employed without the name, or after the name:

Sir, yes, sir!
Colonel Blimp, sir, Company A is ready to proceed.
Professor Knights, sir, may I ask a question?
Professor Knights, may I ask a question, sir?

Sir in this sense does not necessarily imply subordination; in formal situations it may be used to one's peers to signify either respect or distance.

You are exactly right, sir; well said!
You, sir, are a liar and a blackguard.

Sir before a name or name-and-title, is always the title proper to a knight, unless the appellation is set off in apposition:

Sir, Professor Knights, might I ask a question?

  • 1
    In some branches of the US military, it is so thoroughly drilled into a recruit's head that "sir" must be used when addressing an officer, that when a female officer is being addressed, one might hear, "Yes, sir, ma'am!" Feb 18, 2013 at 14:24

This does not happen in the American military system.

However, in the Commonwealth, someone who is entitled to be addressed as Sir (or even Lord) who holds a military rank seems formally to have the rank first and then the Sir before his name.

  • General Sir Peter Wall
  • Major Sir Michael Parker
  • General Sir David Fraser
  • Colonel Sir George Everest
  • Major-General Sir Isaac Brock
  • General Lord George Henry Lennox
  • Major-General Sir Henry Havelock, KCB
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Richard Fletcher
  • General Lord Robert Edward Henry Somerset GCB
  • Colonel Sir William John Kent, CBE, TD, DL, JR
  • Colonel Sir Archibald David Stirling, DSO, OBE
  • General Sir Hugh Michael Rose KCB, CBE, DSO, QGM
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Ninian Edward Crichton-Stuart
  • General Sir David Julian Richards, GCB, CBE, DSO, ADC
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Lord George Augustus Frederick Paget
  • Lieutenant General The Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae
  • Lieutenant Colonel Sir Francis Edward Younghusband, KCSI, KCIE
  • Lieutenant-General Sir Graeme Cameron Maxwell Lamb, KBE, CMG, DSO
  • 1
    In Italian, signore is not a title: It's a way to refer to a person, in the same way sir would be used from an employee of a store when addressing me. It doesn't mean that employee thinks I am a baronet. :)
    – apaderno
    Feb 17, 2013 at 16:04
  • I apologize: The question title I first used spoken of other titles, as if sir was used as title, in my question. That clearly was not correct.
    – apaderno
    Feb 17, 2013 at 16:33

The main British authority on this kind of thing is Debrett’s. They advise that armed forces and ambassadorial ranks should precede 'Sir' and give as examples His Excellency Sir John Brown, KCMG and Major Sir John Brown.

However, in the section on academic titles they comment:

In social usage it is not uncommon to find crown honours combined with styles emanating from other sources, eg Professor Lord Johnston, although this is deprecated by purists.

  • or Professor Sir Michael Atiyah. Sep 11, 2014 at 14:24

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