I am just starting a PhD, and I have been in contact with the supervisor for about 3 months now, that means before the interview so you can assume I was SUPER polite when emailing him!

Since then, I have just been addressing him as "Professor X", while everyone else ofc just calls his first name. How does one make that transition? :)

PS: I'm in the UK.

  • 1
    When they reply to you with "Hi [your name]", you can reply to them with "Hi [their name]". Then maybe revert back to "Dear [their name]" for fresh emails. Feel out how they tend to address you, this is a decent yardstick for how they will be happy to be addressed.
    – Cai
    Commented Sep 7, 2021 at 14:46
  • Agree with all the comments here. That's why I tell all my students to call me whatever feels comfortable to them. You may insist that they use your first name, but for some students, calling a teacher by his/her first name is extremely uncomfortable. Commented Sep 7, 2021 at 20:57

2 Answers 2


There is no written rule on when to make the switch (if ever). There are, however, a few factors to consider:

Cultural preferences and expectations

  • Your own
  • Your advisor’s
  • Your university’s

Past email signings

  • How your advisor addresses you
  • How your advisor signs their own emails

Relationship to your advisor

  • Does your professor have a preference on how they are addressed with colleagues who have known them for a long time?
  • Do you feel comfortable lessening the formality?

In addition to these factors, there are other ways that you might transition your level of formality. For example, I address professors and faculty with varying levels of formality according to their preferences, my preferences, and my relationship to them. I use all of these on a regular basis with different professors:

  • Dear Dr. LastName
  • Hi Prof. LastName
  • Dear FirstName
  • Hi FirstName
  • These all seem to involve making assumptions that may not be valid in any individual case. Caution.
    – Buffy
    Commented Sep 7, 2021 at 14:21
  • 3
    @Buffy I am not proposing to make assumptions, but rather to consider these factors for making a decision on how one might change the level of formality, if the OP deems it appropriate. Commented Sep 7, 2021 at 14:26

You could ask him, of course. Some places are less formal than others. And it isn't uniform by country/culture. During my doctoral studies I called most professors by first name, but my advisor by his title. Partly (probably mostly) that was because of his position and reputation.

Some people will give you signals. If you are addressed by a title (Mr./Ms....) then reciprocate. If you are called by name you could just ask how they would prefer to be addressed.

But it is probably better to default to the formal in the absence of any signal at all.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .