Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

What should you call people in English?

Should you say “honey” or “sweetie” or “dear” or something else?

It depends on how well you know them and a bunch of other factors.

Today we’ll give answer a listener question on this topic so that you’ll never be confused about what to call someone again.

“Hi Lindsay,

I seem to have seen old or new friends (just friends) call each other “my dear”, “honey”,”sweetie”, or even “sweetheart”(sweet names like that, which I thought only people in love or in family would call. ).

I’m confused, and don’t know which is proper in which type of relationships. So could you and Michelle please share your thoughts? Thank you! Thanks a lot for your hard working once again.Have a good one!”





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This can vary by a few things such as:

1) Your level of intimacy:

  • When people talk to their partners – they might say “honey” or “babe” or “sweetie/sweetheart” or “baby”
  • When they talk to their children or grandchildren- “honey” or “sweetie/sweetheart” or “hon”

*but sometimes “hon” is used for less intimate people- like casual friends-


2) Region:

Down south you hear “honey” or even “baby” being used to address a stranger.

Middle aged women might say “Baby, what do you want to drink with that?” (with a southern accent) but you wouldn’t hear this as much in New York City.


A mistake I have seen:

I have seen emails from students to me that start “Hi Dear…”

Why is this wrong?

This person might be getting confused with “Dear Lindsay” which is perfectly fine and can be professional.

Don’t get the two confused. You should only start the letter “Dear (name).”


How to address colleagues/bosses:

When you talk to someone higher up or when you just want to show respect you can say: “excuse me sir…”

This is also fine if you don’t know the person (like to a shop owner)


Other things people use:

Hey dude

Hey man

Darlin’= we might use this more in southern United States


What should you keep in mind?

  • Always listen and see how others are addressing you and the people around them.
  • What you learned in school might not be correct (a lot of students are writing in and making this mistake).
  • It’s great to use someone’s name. Ask them what you should call them and use it often. People love the sound of their own voice.
  • Don’t be too afraid of making a mistake. The person will feel your awkwardness and that awkwardness will sever the connection.


What questions do you have from today?

Let us know in the comments below.

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