I can say:

Where are you from, Mike?

but if I don't know the name, can I say

Where are you from, wanderer?

and should I use some articles then?

  • There's absolutely no need to include a "name" at all in such constructions, and noting StoneyB's comment below I'd say the safest option is not to, unless you're pretty sure the particular term of address you're going to use will be completely acceptable to whoever you're addressing. OP's wanderer is simply "weird", but plenty of people have been caught out and received an unwelcome response along the lines of I'm not your mate / friend / whatever! – FumbleFingers Jan 18 '16 at 18:21

Yes, you can say

Where are you from, wanderer?


Where are you from, Mister?
Where are you from, boy?

and no, you should not use articles before wanderer or Mister, or other vocative expressions.

P.S. A usage notice, per StoneyB's comment:

Wanderer is very unusual, and mister and boy are both dangerous.

So if you're not in a fiction novel, you'd better stick to the most neutral forms:

Where are you from, sir?

Where are you from, ma'am?

Or, if you know their exact position:

Where are you from, Professor?

Where are you from, Mr. President?

  • 2
    Wanderer is very unusual, and mister and boy are both dangerous. – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 18 '16 at 16:08
  • @StoneyB - what would a neutral form of a vocative expression? – CowperKettle Jan 18 '16 at 16:09
  • 1
    I think any vocative which characterizes your interlocutor as anything except a person worthy of respect should be avoided. I'd stick with "sir" and "ma'am", unless you know they're entitled to a specific title such as "Doctor", "Professor", "Mr. President". – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 18 '16 at 16:13

"Sir" or "Ma'am" could be a good choice. But, if you don't know a stranger's name, it is better not to call him/her anything. "Excuse me." and "Pardon me." are broadly used in English when you ask a stranger, i.e.:

Excuse me, where are you from?

Pardon me, where are you from?

They could be used when you ask a stranger what time it is. "Excuse (Pardon) me, what time is it?"

One thing to note is it is very unusual for people to ask somebody where they are from unless you know their name or title. Usually you introduce yourself first and ask their name, then ask them where they are from.


For a child, I (BrE) would say: "Where are you from, young man/lady?"


As CopperKettle said, and you should use Mr/Miss/Ms if the person is of great status:

Pleasure to meet you, Mr President.

As a bit of additional information, you use:
Mr, if an adult male
Master, if a minor male Miss, if unmarried/divorced female
Mrs, if married female
Ms, if don't know if married or not, female
M/s, plural for Mr(Stands for Messrs, usually denotes a company name: M/s Reckitt, Benckiser).

  • This can use any title: President, Secretary, Minister, you get the idea. – cst1992 Jan 18 '16 at 16:07

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