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Reading the article "How to Introduce People", I (not a native English speaker) found no rules for introducing of two (or more) people. Neither could I find links to the related posts here, on ELL.

Were it I to do the introduction, I'd say, for example:

..., this is Tom Smith, our business partner; and this is Jim Blake, our lawyer.

..., this is Mr. Smith, our business partner; and this is his wife Helen.

I am wondering, if it would be possible and not incorrect to make do without "and this is" here, saying:

..., this is Tom Smith— our business partner, and Jim Blake— our lawyer.

..., this is Mr. Blake--our lawyer, and his wife Helen.

..., this is Mr. and Mrs. Blake, their son Mike, and their daughter Jane.

Maybe I'm over thinking it, or maybe I missed something important, studying English grammar, but more than one and "is"… Well, I've never had the occasion to think about it until just now.

What really confuses me is what if I had to introduce, say, some of my friends to my father? Would it be possible (I myself doubt it, though) to say:

"Dad, this is Tom, Jack, and Sandy, my cronies"?

If it would, wouldn't it lead to:

"Dad, this is my classmates: Tom, Jack, and Sandy"?

(Which is rather confusing compared with "these are my classmates")

This question wasn't spun out of a thin air:

In the digital edition of Collins Cobuild English Usage (para 1.126), I have read that when introducing people, one can use this even when he is introducing more than one person:

"When you are introducing people, you can say 'This is Mary' or 'This is Mr and Mrs Baker'. Note that you use this even when you are introducing more than one person."*

(* Added on June 12)

Hard as I tried, I couldn't find any other source backing this statement.

In this regard, would it be correct to make introduction like these:

Mom, this is Jane's favorite pupils Pete, Jack, and Andrew.

Sir, this is the two men I've just told you about.

Would someone kindly help me clear that up?

  • 1
    "Dad, this is Tom, Jack, and Sandy, my cronies" - This is fine in informal speech. You would probably gesture towards each friend as you say their names, so that your dad knows who is who. But you can't use "this" if you turn it around - it should be "These are my cronies, Tom, Jack, and Sandy." – nnnnnn Jun 9 '16 at 14:06
  • linkengpark.com/… – V.V. Jun 10 '16 at 5:17
  • @Rompey essential question... Under what circumstances are you making the introduction? The level of etiquette that one aspires to when attending a royal garden party differs substantially from that expected while tossing another prawn on barbie and opening a stubbie... – PerryW Jun 12 '16 at 8:49
  • @PerryW: Actually, my question has little to do with etiquette rules in general. What I mean is allowableness in any social situation, backyard barbeque and beer parties included, anywhere in the English-speaking world, of course including Australia, where - I've just learned (thank you for this) - there are no shrimps but there are prawns. – VictorB Jun 12 '16 at 10:34
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    My (PNW) AmE impression is that "this is" is a rather set phrase. I would say "this is Tom," gesture to him and then move on to his wife and say "and Mary," where the "this is" is implied through context and parallel syntax. After all, you introduce people generally one at a time. – Azor Ahai Jun 13 '16 at 17:29
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+50

There are a number of things going on in this question. Having read it over a couple of times together with the additional information in the OP’s comments, I think the best way to approach it is case-by-case.

First though it’s worth mentioning that while the OP has pointed out in a number of comments that the question is not about etiquette, it’s not that simple. When dealing with introductions there are established rules of etiquette that we have been trained to follow, whether we do that consciously or sub-consciously is not important, what is important is that they are there and that they do not always sit comfortably with other ‘normal’ usage.

…this is Tom Smith, our business partner; and this is Jim Blake, our lawyer.

First question – Can we do without the additional ‘this is’?

… this is Tom Smith— our business partner, and Jim Blake— our lawyer.

Generally yes. There are only two exceptions that I can think of; one comes later and the other is where a group is being presented and the person that they are being presented to, often a VIP of some type, makes a comment or asks a question after each name. Think of a royal reception where an elderly Royal makes a politically incorrect statement before moving on to the next embarrassed celebrity. In that case the introduction process resets and you would start again with a ‘This is’

In the same way that I turn to The OED for guidance on etymology and usage, for the definitive guide on matters of etiquette I head to Debrett’s:

Mary, this is Jim Wilson, Bob Aspinall and Sue Godstone.

As an aside, notice that Debrett’s is very keen that you should always make introductions two-way, completing the above example with “Everyone, this is Mary Brett”

Next, this vs these

OK, this is where it gets complicated.

The general rule is that you follow normal rules of grammar – this for individuals, these for groups

This is Mike from accounting

This is my neighbour, john Smith.

These are my classmates, Peter, Paul and Mary

You enter a minefield though when you start dealing with groups that can be thought of as a single entity:

and these are the other band members, Paul, George and Ringo

and this is the rest of the band: Paul, George and Ringo

Are both acceptable.

Finally we come to couples and here all the rules change, or rather, they fall apart. Mary Bryant, a writer on weddings and general etiquette starts with the following:

Couples are introduced separately, although it is advisable to clarify the relationship (‘And this is Sarah, Peter’s wife/girlfriend’).

We’ve gone back to an additional ‘this is’….

However, it is also common practice to introduce a couple as a single entity - The reference found for ‘this is’ in Collins is correct in this instance

This is Mike and Sue Jones who live next door (A couple as a single entity)

Although….

These are our neighbours, Mike and Sue Jones (The same couple, now plural as neighbours)

I started off by saying that we can’t ignore etiquette and I stand by that. But etiquette, like dialect is only another form of usage, another set of rules – confusing and often contradictory.

  • A bit of background as the answer I’ve offered is a bit light on references. I was raised on this stuff as a kid in the sixties, my father was a teacher of drama, elocution and, from time to time, etiquette. He would regularly try out exercises on the family. Should you ever need to know how to be introduced to an Actress, a bishop and a circus troupe, I’m here to help… – PerryW Jun 14 '16 at 7:16
  • Great answer! Thank you very much. I'm hoping you wouldn't mind my adding a link to the Debretts.com site, would you? – VictorB Jun 14 '16 at 8:24
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"This is" (singular) or "these are" (group) are used when the person or people you are talking about are part of the conversation, and so are used during an introduction. "that is" (singular) or "those are" (group) are used to indicate people who you are telling someone about but are not part of the conversation; and thus not used during an introduction.

Normally if you are introducing multiple people at once, the most polite way of doing so is to introduce each person separately rather than as a collective group.

The most formal way of introducing more than one person would be to introduce each, one at a time. For example, you might say to your father "This is John, my friend." and then allow your father and John time to greet each other and for them to shake hands, then repeat this process with your friend Bob, and then again with your friend Frank.

A more compressed, and slightly less formal version of this introduction would be if you said "Father, this is my friend John, this is my friend Bob, and this is Bob's wife Mary". You would be indicating each person as you said their names during the introduction to identify them to your father.

A slightly more compressed and less formal version would be if you said "Father, these are my friends John and Bob, and Bob's wife Mary". You would still be indicating each person as you said their names during the introduction to identify them.

The least formal way of introducing a group would to do so collectively, such as if you said to your father "These are my friends John, Bob, and Frank", but not indicate which is which. In this case your father now knows these three people are your friends and that their names are John, Bob and Frank, but doesn't know which of them has which name.

Telling your father "those are my friends John and Bob, and Bob's wife Mary" while your friends are across the room or otherwise not part of the conversation you are having with your father is not an introduction. This is because an introduction consists of two (or more) people meeting each other. In this case your friends have not met your father yet.

The decision about the degree of formality with which you make an introduction depends on how polite you are trying to be (the impression you are trying to make to your father, your friends and any others watching), as well as how much time is available for the introduction, since the more formal you are trying to be, the more time an introduction will require. If you are introducing a large number of people to one another you may decide to use a less formal introduction method to avoid spending too much time doing introductions.

To address your specific questions:

..., this is Tom Smith— our business partner, and Jim Blake— our lawyer.
..., this is Mr. Blake--our lawyer, and his wife Helen.
..., this is Mr. and Mrs. Blake, their son Mike, and their daughter Jane.

These are all correct introductions, as long as you indicate which person is which while introducing them.

"Dad, this is Tom, Jack, and Sandy, my cronies"?
"Dad, this is my classmates: Tom, Jack, and Sandy"?
"Mom, this is Jane's favorite pupils Pete, Jack, and Andrew.
"Sir, this is the two men I've just told you about.

These sentences are all incorrect; you should use "these are" to replace "this is" in each sentence since you are referring to them as a group (cronies, classmates, pupils, and two men).

  • You read the question and could see that it has little to do with etiquette rules in general. What is meant is just a usage allowableness in any social situation, anywhere in the English-speaking world. As for your answer, much detailed it might seem, to me, without the source you've taken if from, it's just a personal opinion that I've thankfully taken note of. If you feel like adding the link or mentioning the book and do so, I'll gladly reward you. – VictorB Jun 12 '16 at 15:34
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Your question seems to be about correctness, not about etiquette or what can pass as informal speech.

Grammatically, you can use either

  1. A single phrase with a list of names as a subject complement (sometimes called "predicate nominative"). The list has multiple items, so it is considered plural. Therefore: "These are Peter and Paul, my sons, and Mary, my daughter".
  2. A series of phrases connected by "and", where in each phrase the subject complement is singular: "This is Peter, this is Paul, and this is Mary".
  3. Any combination of the above, such as "These are Peter and Paul and this is Mary".

Note that introducing people as a group without any separation or description may be considered impolite (more details here), but grammatically it is correct.

Using "this" to refer to a list (plural) is gramatically incorrect, but may pass (perhaps unnoticed) in informal speech.

Another resource for this topic: http://www.englishpractice.com/children/introducing-people .

  • As it was formulated, my question has nothing to do with grammar rules learned at the very beginning. It's about the possibility (if it exists at all) of the use of "is" when introducing people. The question emerged after I read in the book (there's a link to the title): "When you are introducing people, you can say 'This is Mary' or 'This is Mr and Mrs Baker'. Note that you use 'this' even when you are introducing more than one person." So, even with your great explanation of the basics in mind, to me, the issue remains annoyingly unsolved. Nevertheless, greatly appreciated, indeed. – VictorB Jun 12 '16 at 23:40
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I think that this protocol is a little out of date (100 years or so) and a little too formal. Maybe they do it like this when you are introduced to the Queen, but under any other circumstances it's OK to do whatever you feel is appropriate.

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