My native language is Macedonian, and in my language, we have a special term that describes the process of formally addressing someone. The idea is that you treat that person in plural instead of in singular, plus you also use the proper honorifics.

For example:

Hello, Professor Mark, How are You today?

In the sentence above, there are three important things

  1. You starts with capital Y
  2. You in this context (if it was in Macedonian of course) would be personal pronoun for second person plural (In Macedonian it is totally different word than the one for second person singular)
  3. We use the word Professor as an honorific/title.

For this process, or way of addressing someone formally, we have a word in the Macedonian language: Персирање

I would like to know the equivalent of the English Language and I couldn't find it in few online and few printed dictionary that I have had access to.

I would highly appreciate if someone finds the right word for me and also tell me more about the roles for formal addressing in the English Language (or redirect me to some article).

Thank you.

  • Majestic plural (Pluralis maiestatis ) : en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_we
    – user 66974
    Jan 11, 2018 at 20:59
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    There is no facility in modern English for addressing someone directly in either a singular or plural form. The (old) singular form, how art thou, is now archaic. Apart from that, a formal means of address using an honorific is called a salutation.
    – Mick
    Jan 11, 2018 at 21:01
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    @Mick: Thank you for your answer. Maybe I have understood wrong, but salutation would be initiating a conversation with a greeting (in a polite way) but (and again if I am not wrong) salutation doesn't explain using the honorifics throughout the entire conversation or until the other person kindly asks us not to do that... Jan 11, 2018 at 21:36
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    You are right. I'm not sure what the repeated use of honorifics as a matter of courtesy is called. It is a form of deference, but I don't know if there is a precise term. Interesting question. Let's hope that someone can provide an answer.
    – Mick
    Jan 11, 2018 at 21:50

1 Answer 1


English has, in practical terms, lost its T-V distinction. To be sure there are different registers, but they are indicated by things like adherence to standard as opposed to dialectical English, or using more indirect or deferential language. It is not conveyed by the choice of a separate set of pronouns as in many Indo-European languages (or in languages like Korean and Japanese, a separate set of all kinds of other words as well). You could thus ask how are you? of both a toddler and the prime minister equally appropriately. (Of course, You was originally the polite form.)

As for honorific titles, we do use them in more formal settings and especially with members of more elite circles (e.g. Doctor, Reverend, Professor), but that is simply an expression of respect and/or distance, not the employment of a distinct variety of English. I always say the only people who address me as sir or mister are those trying to sell me something.

Academics may speak of honorific speech or linguistic honorifics as a concept, but as modern English does not exhibit it, such terminology is not widely understood. Rather, in my experience the subject mostly comes up in terms of learning foreign languages: when to use the plain or direct or familiar form as opposed to the respectful or honorific or polite form, and so on. Often, the term is language-specific, like warning that Höflichkeitsform can be taken as distancing, or relief that the vosotros form is not used in Mexico or Central America.

  • Well, honouring is the most accurate term for it, although that encompasses a lot of attendant things like body language too :o) Jan 12, 2018 at 5:24

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