According to oxforddictionaries (and also e.g. What does "Take care sweets" mean?), take care used at the end of a conversation has the meaning of goodbye:

Said to someone on leaving them.
Take care, see you soon
Angel, have a nice trip, take care, and remember to e-mail me!

All the examples of the usage I found sound to me like the informal language.

I recently called an IT service desk of a big company. The assistant addressed me quite formally and politely (sir here sir there, could you, would you be so kind etc.). However at the very end of the conversation she said take care, sir.

This sounds to me like a mixing of styles, but I am not sure.

How formal / informal is take care used in the meaning of goodbye? Is it appropriate to be mixed with the addressing by sir (when meant seriously and not in a funny way)?

  • Anecdotally I noticed a big increase in the use of "take care" as a closing salutation in NYC after 9/11. I took it as an acknowledgement of the danger in the world that alternatives like "see you later" lack.
    – AllInOne
    Dec 15, 2017 at 15:41

4 Answers 4


With take care, the issue isn't really about whether the register is formal or informal. If there is incongruence read into "Take care, sir", it comes from the different degrees of social distance implied.

I'm using the term somewhat loosely, but the version of social distance I'm referring to is affective social distance:

According to this approach, social distance is associated with affective distance, i.e. how much sympathy the members of a group feel for another group. - wikipedia

Here, take care is something that one might say to a close friend or loved one, wishing them well with a degree of tenderness. It carries the connotation that the wisher and the 'wished' are close.

On the other hand, addressing someone as sir instead of using his name or a term of affection implies that the speaker and the person addressed are not close.

You ask:

How formal / informal is take care used in the meaning of goodbye? Is it appropriate to be mixed with the addressing by sir (when meant seriously and not in a funny way)?

The phrase "take care" used as a farewell isn't necessarily formal or informal, just as a word like "Hello" isn't easily categorised as formal or informal. Also, "take care" doesn't mean goodbye, even though it is a farewell wish.

In a situation such as the fictional workplace setting between Tony Stark the boss and his extremely close member of staff, Pepper Potts, the mixture of close and distant language expressed in "Take care, sir" can work. In the scenario you asked about, it might also work if the assistant was trying to express friendliness within the constraints of the protocols she had to follow.

A parting "Take care, sir" to you isn't necessarily inappropriate, but it suggests (whether real or manufactured) a degree of concern for your well-being.

  • 1
    +1 as I agree it is a matter of familiarity and distance, and something you might hear in a friendly setting which is nevertheless hierarchical, and where some deference is still expected. I would expect it in the same kinds of situations where you use an honorific with a first name or nickname (e.g. Fr. Pat, Dr. Scooter).
    – choster
    Dec 15, 2017 at 17:02
  • @Lawrence Isn't formality/informality and social closeness/distance in the language so tightly bound that it is redundant to distinguish them in a way that you state "it is not a matter of formality but of a social distance"? I always though that the register is practically determined by the social distance between the two speakers. Feb 5, 2018 at 10:46
  • @HonzaZidek Not necessarily. For example, waiters can be said to be at the same social distance to their customers, regardless of the class of restaurant. But you’d expect more formal language from a fancy restaurant (e.g. “May I take your order, sir?”) than from a local burger joint (e.g. “What’ll it be today?”). There is some interaction between the two concepts, but one doesn’t necessarily determine the other.
    – Lawrence
    Feb 5, 2018 at 11:33
  • @Lawrence Well you are just confirming my point :) I often feel overfamiliar waiters as unpleasant, arrogant and disrespectful - they do not match our mutual social distance with their register. However, when I am a recognized frequent customer, our social distance is closer and we both can afford to change the register towards more informal. Feb 5, 2018 at 14:16
  • @HonzaZidek I suppose the broader discussion you raise is partly a matter of local culture. However, in the OP's question, the phrase "take care" isn't really classifiable as either formal or informal; it's used in both registers. My answer takes the position that formality doesn't have much explanatory value here - it doesn't really explain the apparent incongruity within the assistant's farewell. The perspective of social distance provides a better lens through which to consider the OP's question of whether "take care" was "appropriate" when used with "sir".
    – Lawrence
    Feb 5, 2018 at 14:29

'Take care, Sir' is certainly a mixture of styles of informal and formal - and it is an incongruous one. To my English ears, it sounds wierd, and if someone at a service desk said that to me (in which case it would be 'take care, Madam') I would be mildly offended.

It is a bit like saying 'cuddles duckie dearie, Sir' it sounds too familiar, and mixed with 'Sir' just makes it sound overweeningly sugary and ridiculous - like something from Monty Python!

Better choices might be: 'Thank you for your enquiry Sir. Have a good evening'. Or 'Thank-you for visiting us Sir. Let us know if you need anything more. Good-bye'.

'Take care' is an American expression that has become accepted in the UK. It tetains a slight cheesiness however and I would avoid using it in formal or semi-formal situations.

In informal situations like saying goodnye to a partner at the railway station, you could say 'take care of yourself' - but this is not the use of the expression 'take care'. It is a proper sentence, commonly used, that includes the words 'take care'. If you said 'take care!' at such an emotive moment - 'take care' being an expression similar to 'have a nice day!' - it would seem cheesy and insincere - as incongrous as saying 'Thank-you for your visit, Sir!' in that situation!

I hope that helps!

Take care now, ducky loves! 😊

  • 1
    @Mari-LouA I think that you should not have removed the last sentence "Take care now, ducky loves!" - it was part of the answer and was conveying meta information :) Feb 5, 2018 at 10:48
  • @HonzaZidek it was frivolous and said in good humour. It did not add anything; in fact, it distracted attention. I personally dislike seeing emojis and "hope this helps" phrases in posts. And in this case, they weakened what was a very valid answer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 5, 2018 at 11:00
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA But this question is about frivolous mixing of style! I believe it was there on purpose as an illustration! The very topic is about "take care" phrase. Feb 5, 2018 at 14:09
  • 1
    'Take care now ducky loves!' was a part of the answer - designed to demonstrate to readers how it feels when innapropriate familiarity is used. It was also intended to be humourous. Emojis and hope this helps is a matter of personal style and not an intrinsic part of the answer
    – Jelila
    Feb 6, 2018 at 11:48
  • 1
    Thanks for editing my typos @Mari-LouA 😊 Its dark I can't always see what I typed! And thanks for caring, Honza. The emoji with the ducky loves was a part of my answer, actually. Meant to convey levity. What's wrong with emojis, M-L Don't they help to convey the emotion, where that could be ambiguous in an online communication? And if some people can't see them - what of it?
    – Jelila
    Feb 6, 2018 at 11:56

It is semi-formal, I would say (and the use of Sir indicates that it is not informal), although without the "Sir", it would probably be considered informal. It is certainly more formal than "Toodle-oo" [BrE], and infinitely more preferable to "Have a nice day."

  • I totally agree with you. But in some situation, If you want to end the conversation at night, "Have a nice day" would be some strange sentence. So, I prefer "Take care" as in the formal way.
    – Virb
    Dec 14, 2017 at 8:35
  • Could you please sort the goodbye phrases by formality level? Dec 14, 2017 at 11:29
  • Take care can definitely span the entire formality ?spectrum? Dec 14, 2017 at 15:50

'Take care' is an abbreviation of take care of yourself. So, I feel that it is informal and even I could agree with Jelila that it could be mildly offending coming from someone at a Call Centre, IT professional or any other Customer Service Representative. It is just a little way to show you care about how they are doing and it is acceptable to say to friends, family and acquaintances.

Here's a closer look:

  1. Be careful, use caution, as in 'Take care or you will slip on the ice.'
  2. Goodbye, as in I have to go now; take care. This abbreviation of take care of yourself is used both orally and in writing, where it sometimes replaces the conventional Sincerely or Love in signing off.[Colloquial]

By using the Sir at the end they have tried to make it formal. But it does not work it is incorrect.

Hope this helps too.

  • Are you a British English speaker or American? Your profile doesn't say.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 5, 2018 at 10:49

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