Do you know the right thing to say when you are introduced? Do you know how to introduce someone? What do you say when someone asks you "how do you do?" As soon as you meet people who do not speak your language, they can see from the introduction how good your English is. So in this section we will improve your introductions. We will study -
We start with - register.
When you are speaking to your friends or family, you speak in one way. When you are speaking to a policeman you speak in another way, when you are speaking to your boss, you speak in another way. English mothers do not normally say "sir" when they speak to their children! This rule of speaking happens in every country. The different language you use when speaking to another person is called register. We use register to show how we feel about others. It can also be used to show status.
Hello Tomkins. How are you?"
"Very well, thank you sir. And yourself?"
You can see that Tomkins is speaking to someone more important than he is.
In English, we have three levels of register. There is the formal register. We use this for strangers, and for important people or occasions. (We also use it to show we are angry with people we know!) The general/intermediate register is used for people who are like us, but who we don't know well. The informal register is used with friends and family.
Excuse me, could you pass the salt? (Formal register)
Could you pass me the salt, please? (General/intermediate register)
Hey! I need the salt! (Informal register)
For introductions, you can tell from the person and the occasion what register to use.
We make introductions for many reasons. We do it for business ("May I present Mr Collins of Widget supplies"). Or maybe two of your friends are meeting for the first time ("Terry - this is Sarah - we play tennis together"). It may be impersonal ("Hello, I'm nurse Jones. I am here to take your temperature.") .
(The first speaker is blue, the reply is in red.)
Mr Thompson, this is Professor Jones.
Professor Jones. I'm pleased to meet you.
Mr Thompson, may I present Professor Jones.
How do you do?
("How do you do?" does not mean "what do you do?" It does not mean anything. It is just a polite way to say "hello" when you are introduced.)
Allow me to present Professor Jones.
I'm delighted to meet you, Professor. My name is Bob Thompson.
(You should say your name if the person who introduces you does not say it.)
We use formal introductions on formal occasions. For example, important business or meeting important people. We use it often at weddings and even more at funerals. If you are not sure how to introduce someone, formal introductions are safer. It is even more important to use formal introductions if you are introducing yourself
Mr Thompson, have you met Professor Jane Jones?
How are you, Professor?
Bob, this is Jane Jones.
I'm pleased to meet you.
Jane, do you know Bob Thompson?
We haven't met. It's nice to meet you, Bob.
Sometimes you may not be sure whether you are supposed to use someone's first name, (Jane); their title (Professor) or the formal name (Professor Jones). English people have the same problem! When you are not sure, use the more formal name. Some english people simply call the other person "you". Sometimes the other person will help you and say (for example) "Please call me Jane". We use General introductions for people we might never meet again, for meetings which are not very important, or for meeting people like ourselves - for instance the people we will work with. It is often used, for example to introduce people at office parties, or new people in a class.
Bob, meet Jane
How are you, Jane?
Bob, this is Jane, she lives next door.
Hi, Jane I'm Bob.
You don't know Jane, do you?
No, hi Jane, I'm Bob.
Informal introductions are for people we meet at parties, or when we are with friends. We use only the first name, and we don't say the family names. Instead we often give some information about that person, for example, "Bob is from Canada", or "Bob is visiting us or a week". This makes it easier to speak to that person. Sometimes this information is to prevent confusion later.
"Bill, this is my cousin, Tina."
"Bill, this is Tina, my girlfriend."
Sometimes a person will give a first name, to be friendly, and then their complete name, in case you need to know what it is.
"Have you two met?
"No. Hi. I'm Bob. Bob Wilson."
Some other suggestions. With formal introductions, and some general introductions, you usually shake hands. You don't usually shake hands in impersonal introductions. With informal introductions you shake hands if you are near that person.
There are two special classes of introductions - impersonal introductions and self-introductions
Well, actually, impersonal introductions are a form of self-introduction. They are used by people who have business with you, and their name is given as imformation. They will usually say why they are introducing themselves. You are not normally required to give your name unless the speaker asks you or it directly.
"Hello. I am Terry Spanton. I have an appointment at 11.30."
"I am police officer Jones, and I am arresting you for..."
"Hi, I'm Sally, your tour guide."
"My name is flight oficer Kirkpatrick, and I am your pilot on this flight."
Other self-introductions are less common in English society, since English people like to introduce, and be introduced by people they know. However, in some situations, such as a party, or where you are in a large group which will be together for some time, you can introduce yourself. But this is usually done after you have exchanged some small talk. Then they might include their names as casual inormation
"I'm Jane Jones, by the way."
Some other examples of self-introductions are -
Excuse me, I don't think we have met, my name is Bob Thompson. (Formal)
May I introduce myself? I'm Bob Thompson. (Formal)
Hello, I'm Jane.(General/Intermediate)
You must be Bob Thompson. I'm Jane Jones. (General/Intermediate)
Hello Bob, I'm Jane.(Informal)
Are you Bob Thompson? I'm Jane Jones.(Informal)
Usually when you are introducing yourself, you use a slightly more formal register. When people introduce themselves you say the same things to them that you say to people who are introduced to you.
In every country there are safe subjects you can talk about with people you have just met. And there are other things you can't talk about. There is an old rule that says "Don't talk about money, sex or politics with people you don't know well." It is a good rule. Also try to avoid personal matters. We call the subjects which are safe "small talk". Good small talk subjects are: The weather (Yes, English people do talk about the weather), what you are doing at the party, why you are in the country, if you like the country, food, and travel. You can also talk about your job. In the vocabulary section you will find exercises for words about nationality.
Small talk is not really about the weather, or the traffic, or the food. They are a way of carrying on with the introduction, so that you can measure the other person, and decide if you want to see more of them. The other person is doing the same thing with you - deciding "is this a nice/interesting person? Do I want to see this person again?"
An example conversation
Hello, aren't you Professor Jones?
Yes, that's right.
I'm pleased to meet you. I'm a friend of George Wilson.
Oh, George! How is he?
Oh, he's well. Are you enjoying the party?
Yes, it's lovely. I'm glad I came.
My name is Bob by the way, Bob Thompson.
Please call me Jane. So how do you know George ...?
So now you have met introductions. Ok - here are some exercises for you! Click the blue triangle.