Is it correct to use honorifics or titles after someone's name rather than before?



In India, it is common to place the honorific sir after a person's name. The same is true of the words uncle and aunt. However, when I asked a native English speaker about it, she said that it is correct to place honorifics before a person's name..

This seems to be an American and British style of honorific usage, but could the Asian style be correct as well? Are these examples passable in American or British usage, or not acceptable at all?

I asked Manmohan Sir about the economic crises in the country.

Last night, I went to Sunita Patel Aunt(y)'s house for a birthday party.

Maulik V

Posted 2013-11-14T05:23:28.470

Reputation: 66 188

+1. I had the same doubt too. I consoled myself for the reason that we just translate our sentences into english which lead to such problems. – VijayaRagavan – 2013-11-14T08:21:08.610

1This is a good question. It's specific, it's answerable, and it's an issue that non-native speakers from various cultures will encounter while learning English. – Jonathan Garber – 2013-11-14T14:59:11.447

3@VijayaRagavan It's not doubt, it's question. Another common Indian English usage, which I am afraid, is incorrect. – Masked Man – 2013-11-14T15:14:39.063

Although it's non-standard, some people borrow honorifics from other languages into English. For example, some native speakers of Japanese use -san as a suffix in English. In cases like these, you may encounter honorifics following rather than preceding names. – snailplane – 2013-11-14T19:19:05.113



Neither of those are idiomatic English in any dialect.

Titles describing your relationship to a person always go ahead of the name and never after it:

I visited Aunt Jane's house

Uncle Tom came to tea.

(X) I visited Jane Aunt's house

(X) Tom Uncle came to visit.

Where no relationship or honorific title exists, you can use the title Mr. (any man), Mrs (any married woman) or Ms. (any woman) followed by that person's surname to construct their "formal name":

Mr. Bullock and Mrs. Dangersmith were late to the meeting.

If the person has been granted an honorific title, such as Sir, Dr., Professor, Gen. or Fr., this replaces Mr., Ms. or Mrs. at the start of the name. If a person has more than one title, they are normally all used before the name instead of Mr, Mrs or Ms.

Sir Godfrey McDougal chairs the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Lt. Gen. Sir Adrian Bradshaw is currently the head of Land Forces in the British Army.

When a person has several titles, some of which are extremely prestigious, sometimes less prestigious ones are dropped - for example although President Wilson has a PhD, he is not normally called "President Dr. Wilson".

As a learner you should think of honorific titles as part of a person's name: you should never add or remove titles for any reason without the permission of the person in question.

Note that some people use honorific titles as part of their stage name - notably Dr. Dre and Professor Green, however these are not formal titles and cannot be used on official documentation.

Post-nominal titles also exist, but are generally less significant and are optional, and describe the person's degrees, official honors and membership of some societies.

Gen. Sir Douglas Alexander KBE chaired the debate between Dr. Williamson MD. and Michael Davis MP.

Note that whilst the title Sir is reserved for people who have had that title officially bestowed by the head of state, the polite sir can also be used to emphasize respect and subservience:

Good evening, sir. How may I be of service?

Note that this is almost never used in American English outside of fixed idioms (such as "How may I help you sir?"), and is very rarely used in British English. In both cases, respect is usually conveyed by using someone's title and last name instead of their first name:

Would you like some tea, Tony? (ordinary)

Would you like some tea, Mr. Stark? (conveys respect to the listener by using their "formal name")

Would you like some tea, sir? (conveys extreme respect and subservience - this is normally inappropriate between friends or colleagues)

Sir is also used in formal letter writing as a fixed idiom to convey respect:

Dear Sir.
Please find attached the first draft of the report for your review.

Yours sincerely,
    Mr. David Sawyers

Or when talking to a superior ranking officer in the military:

Sir! The enemy are attacking our left flank, sir!


Posted 2013-11-14T05:23:28.470

Reputation: 11 728

I would elaborate that "sir" as anything other than a formally bestowed honorific is used pretty much only in the vocative (that is, direct address). However, within that context, it's not as fixed as you make out - many customer service situations will use "sir" or "ma'am" in a variety of situations, especially to stress respect when breaking bad news to a difficult customer. – SirTechSpec – 2017-06-19T17:34:12.200