For example, a man's name is Jeff Smith. My question is:

When should I call him "Jeff"?

When should I call him "Smith"?

When should I call him "Jeff Smith"?

in western.

closed as off topic by Marthaª, RegDwigнt May 18 '11 at 14:00

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  • 3
    I don't think this is an English question. This is a Miss Manners question, and not particularly answerable without a lot more context. – Marthaª May 18 '11 at 13:57
  • He’s asking for the context, though. – Константин Ван Jun 19 at 2:29

In general US usage, you would use "Jeff" if you are friends, contemporaries, or Jeff has asked you to use his first name. First names are often used in casual settings.

You would use "Mr. Smith" (or "Dr. Smith" or other appropriate title) if you are colleagues, younger than Mr. Smith, or in a formal or business setting.

You would use "Smith" in a very casual setting, particularly when playing sports.

You would use "Jeff Smith" when making an introduction, or if you needed to distinguish him from other Jeffs or Smiths, or sometimes when greeting him.

  • What happen if I call him "Smith" when Jeff Smith is my normal colleague? Is it polite? – AJ09 May 18 '11 at 13:47
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    There may be cultural differences regarding calling someone by their surname without a title (i.e. just "Smith"). In the UK, it tends to be limited to specific environments, e.g. schools and the military. – Steve Melnikoff May 18 '11 at 13:56
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    @Steve Agreed. AJ09, there are very significant cultural differences in what constitutes polite address. I'd say "Smith" is not polite, but that's because it's either very familiar, or implies that you are in a position of authority. That might be different in another region though. – Kit Z. Fox May 18 '11 at 14:05
  • Good answer, but it suggests the appropriate salutation will depend on the setting rather than the person. If he is my superior, I will call him Mr. Smith in an office meeting while I can call him Jeff while we are out playing golf. Am I right here? – Della Apr 26 '14 at 3:56

Usually you refer to someone by their last name when it is more formal so, if they were your boss, or some other form of authority or perhaps, someone you just met.

You use someone's first name more casually, if you know them personally better.

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