As well is in the service industry, there are other situations where you might hear ‘sir’ and ‘madam’. Listen to this one and guess what the situation might be.
-Good morning, sir. It’s a real honour to have you here.
The situation that makes me think of is of greeting a VIP - perhaps a very important politician or leader who you meet. In some cases, people use it when they are greeting someone much older than they are, as a sign of respect. Or you may occasionally hear it used in the workplace, where employees want to show respect for their superiors. As you listen to this clip, again note how only the employee uses the word ‘sir’.
-Good morning, sir.
So far, we’ve looked over some of those situations where you might use very formal language in greetings, such as ‘sir’ or ‘madam’. You might use it in the service industry, with VIPs, with much old people and, sometimes, with bosses at work. But, as well as using these kinds of words, what else is it that makes language in greetings sound more formal and polite? We’re going to hear two different versions of a greeting between James and his boss Mr Jones. Listen and decide which one is the most formal and think about why. Here’s the first one:
-Hi! How’s it going?
Jackie: Now listen to the second greeting.
-Good morning, Mr Jones.
-Hello, James. How are you?
-I’m very well, thank you. How are you?
-Fine, thank you.
The second greeting was more formal. Why? Well one of the most obvious differences is in how long the phrases are. ‘Good morning’ sounds more formal than ‘morning’ because ‘morning’ is shorter and it’s a slightly lazier way of greeting someone, if you like. ‘Hello’ is also a bit more formal than ‘hi’. ‘I’m very well, thank you’ also sounds more formal than ‘fine, thanks’ or ‘good, thanks’ again, mainly because it takes longer to say.