Greeting people in quite formal contexts

Jackie: Hello! I’m Jackie Dalton. This programme is about greetings and the
Language you might use if you’re greeting people in quite formal
Situations, hen you want to sound polite. I’d like you to start by listening
To this greeting. Try to guess what the situation might be.

Good morning, sir.

Jackie: Using ‘sir’ in a greeting sounds very formal. It gives extra status or
Importance to the person you are talking to and there are several
Situations where you might hear it. One of the most common situations is
In the service industry. It could be a hotel receptionist talking to a guest,
A waiter talking to a customer in a restaurant. Or it could be in a shop –
Anywhere where people are dealing with customers or clients. If you
Were speaking to a woman, you wouldn’t say ‘sir – you would say

Good morning, madam.

Jackie: It’s nearly always the people offering the service who would use this
Kind of language. If a waiter says ‘good evening, sir’ you would just
Reply with ‘good evening’ you wouldn’t say ‘good evening, sir’ back.
This is because, in this particular situation, you are the one being given
The most importance, so you don’t need to show this extra sign of respect.
Likewise, if you walk into a hotel and the receptionist says ‘good
Afternoon, madam’, it would usually sound strange to say ‘good
Afternoon, madam’ back.
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.

Jackie: 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.
Hello, James.

Jackie: 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?
Good thanks – you?
Yeah, fine.

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.

Jackie: 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 ‘nine, thanks’ or ‘good, thanks’ again, mainly because it
Takes longer to say. This doesn’t mean you should never say ‘hi’ in

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Greeting people in quite formal contexts