Well, years ago I was an English teacher in an English Teaching Institute. In the country I live, students call their teachers by saying "Mr. Teacher" or "Teacher" (literally translated) in schools. In places other than schools and universities, students also can call their teacher by saying "Mr. X", and in universities they call their professor by saying "Dr." and "Master". It was always question for me that in an English class what should I be called by my students because I didn't know what American students call their teacher in class.

To sum up my question, what do students call their teacher in class in a typical school in the U.S.? Is it different for the students of primary school and secondary school? I would be glad to hear the same question about England and Australia.

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    One addresses one’s teacher as Mr Smith or Ms Smith, or occasionally as Miss Smith or Mrs Smith, depending on personal preferences of the addressee.
    – tchrist
    Dec 30, 2012 at 12:57
  • @tchrist Ehm... Is there a difference between Ms and Miss? I mean, in pronunciation?
    – Mr Lister
    Dec 30, 2012 at 13:55
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    @MrLister Certainly. The first has a /z/; the second an /s/.
    – tchrist
    Dec 30, 2012 at 14:07
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    People should be addressed how they wish to be addressed, not how someone else thinks they should be. There's no reason to suppose every teacher in the Anglophonic world feels the same about this issue; if he doesn't like the "local default" (whatever that happens to be), it's incumbent on the teacher to tell his students at the earliest opportunity what he wants. Dec 30, 2012 at 16:44
  • This is a question of etiquette, having no "right" or "wrong" answer. Certainly it does not have a right or wrong answer in terms of English sentence construction. Voting to close "not constructive".
    – MetaEd
    Dec 30, 2012 at 19:06

6 Answers 6


In the U.S. the variety of forms of address used is quite broad. I think that at the college level, the honorific Professor is most common, after which the honorific-plus-surname form Professor X (for example, Professor Johnson) is common, followed by the form Doctor X (for example, Doctor Johnson). In graduate school, many students address professors by their first names, particularly in seminars or less formal groups. When not present, professors most often are called by their surnames (for example, Johnson), and less frequently by first name or by honorific-plus-surname forms.

At the high school level, forms like Mr. X, Mrs. X, Ms X, and Miss X are common, where X is a surname. Both in class and out, popular teachers often are referred to by title plus first letter of surname; for example, a Mrs. Thompson might be called Mrs. T.

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    An oddity I have heard at the pre-school and kintergarden level and in Sunday school settings is honorific-plus-personal-name, as in Mr. David or Miss Melissa. It seems to be a comprimise between the informal style of recent decades and maintaining some kind of separation. Dec 30, 2012 at 21:08
  • In addition to "Mrs. Atkins" or whatever, in elementary school we commonly called our teachers teacher as well.
    – ErikE
    Dec 30, 2012 at 22:28

At the school I attended in England we called our teachers Sir. That may not have been mainstream and I doubt very much whether it’s in use in many schools today.

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    @tchrist They are addressed as Sir. Female teachers were called Miss at the schools I attended. I'll find out about current practice later when I see some children!
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 30, 2012 at 13:13
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    @tchrist If one needed to refer to a teacher by name, then it's Mr Smith, but I believe the OP to be asking about how to address a teacher in the classroom.
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 30, 2012 at 13:15
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    @tchrist The OP did ask ...how do students call their teacher in class... Dec 30, 2012 at 13:20
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    @spiceyokooko Isn’t the modernista answer to how kids call their teachers in class “with a cell phone”?
    – tchrist
    Dec 30, 2012 at 21:20
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    The same way two people called Dave know which one I am addressing: sometimes it is clear from context, and sometimes one or more of them is confused.
    – RoundTower
    Dec 30, 2012 at 21:29

In UK state schools it's correct to call all male teachers Sir and all female teachers Miss (irrespective of marital status). In the third person you'd say Mr Smith, Mrs Jones, Miss Jones or Ms Jones as appropriate.

At the 16+ college where I teach it's common to refer to teachers by their first names, but that's definitely not universal. It takes students some time to lose the Sir/Miss habit of 12 years.

At the (UK) universities I've been involved with, staff were known (both in the second and third person) by their correct title, most often Dr Smith, but when correct, Professor Jones, but never just Doctor or Professor. In the UK only a select minority of academics attain the rank of professor. As a graduate student I began to refer to academic staff by their names eg Sarah Jones, but ended by calling my PhD supervisor by his first name.

  • This accords with the research I did this afternoon (that is, asking students what they did in school/college).
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 30, 2012 at 18:12

In American grade schools, one addresses one’s teachers as Mr Smith or Ms Smith, or occasionally as Miss Smith or Mrs Smith, depending on personal preferences of the addressee.

At universities, TAs are addressed by their first names, while titled professors are traditionally addressed as Professor Smith or sometimes Dr Smith, depending again on the addressee’s personal preferences.

In all cases, if and when a student should come to be on closer personal terms with their instructor, the title may be dropped in favor of first names in casual conversation, especially outside of the classroom. This is more likely the older the student (and the closer the student’s age to the instructor’s age), and less likely with the younger the student and the more separated the two ages.


In India, where I live, a male school teacher is addressed as Sir and a female school teacher as Miss or Madam. It's considered disrespectful, at least by our traditional standards, to address teachers by their name though this sentiment is not endorsed by the present generation of educated class.

Update in response to tchrist's comment below:

This might sound rather strange but a wrong practice widely prevails in India about mentioning teachers' names. When students talk about their teacher, let's say Mr. Ajay Mehta, they would either call him Ajay Sir or Mehta Sir. A female teacher, let's say Mrs. Jyoti Patel would be Jyoti Miss.

"I think Mehta Sir has not come today."

"Jyoti Miss said he is not well."

However, in schools established by the British during the colonial rule and in schools run by Christian groups, Mr. Mehta and Mrs. Patel may be often heard.

  • But what do you actually call them, per the OP’s question? Do you call them Bill or Bonnie, or are they Mr Rogers and Mrs Williams?
    – tchrist
    Dec 30, 2012 at 13:09
  • @tchrist: I thought I would rather update my answer in response to your comment.
    – user32480
    Dec 30, 2012 at 13:36
  • And on what grounds do you call this a "wrong practice"? It's not common outside India, as far as I know, but if as you say it is part of Indian English, then it is part of Indian English, and referring to it as "wrong" is inappropriate.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 30, 2012 at 17:52
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    @PeterK. If American was good enough J.C, it's good enough for you... Dec 30, 2012 at 21:25
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    @dcmckee Aramaic? ;-)
    – Peter K.
    Dec 30, 2012 at 22:23

In the school I currently attend, teachers are addressed by Mr. (/ˈmistər/) or Miss (/ˈmis/) / Mrs. (/ˈmisəz/) (they sound similar in actual speech so there isn't really a distinction.) For example: Mr. Smith, Miss Smith / Mrs. Smith.

I don't know of any teachers that are addressed with a Ms. (/ˈmiz/), but it could be used if a teacher weren't married (most are). Example: Ms. Smith.

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