English has lots of ways to address people.
Some are common. Others are so rare they seem ungrammatical.
However, just like with “a unique” vs “an unique”, these differences are often down to regional variation.
Let’s take a look at “my dears,” an expression that has a mixed reputation.
What is the meaning of “my dears”?
The expression “my dears” is a form of salutation or address used to talk to multiple people the speaker is close to. This expression is identical to “my dear” except that it is plural.
Using “my dears” to address people
The expression “my dears” has a very simple meaning. This short phrase (see our article on clauses vs phrases) is simply a way to tell a group of people that you care about them.
You can think of the expression as being identical to telling someone they are dear to you.
Of course, most of the time you can’t just go up to somebody and say, “My dears!” That would be confusing and also a little strange.
Instead, “my dears” is a form of address, similar to “friend” or “dude” or even “mom.”
The difference between “my dear” and “my dears”
One common question is whether there’s any difference between “my dears” and “my dear.”
Fortunately, this question is easy to answer. The only difference is that “my dears” is plural and “my dear” is singular.
That is, if you’re talking to one person, you should use “my dear,” but if you’re talking to more than one person, you should use “my dears” instead.
Some people also ask if “my dears” is valid English. It certainly is, although it may sound a little affected in American English.
How to use “my dears” in a sentence
The phrase “my dears” can be placed anywhere in a sentence where you would pause to address somebody.
If that seems confusing, mentally replace “my dears” with a common name in your head and say the sentence. You can then simply swap out the name you chose for “my dears.”
Grammatically speaking, you will need to place a comma after “my dears” if it appears at the front of the sentence.
That’s because this phrase serves as an introductory phrase in those cases, and introductory phrases need to be separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma.
If you’re inserting “my dears” halfway through a sentence, you’ll need to set it off completely by commas.
These commas serve to show readers that the phrase is nonessential information.
Incidentally, this is the same explanation for where you place the commas in the phrase most, if not all.
Finally, “my dears” should usually be preceded by a comma when placed at the end of a sentence.
This may not always be the case, however. For best results, closely examine the grammar of the rest of the sentence to determine whether a comma is needed.
All three of these examples show someone using “my dears” to greet a group of people. Note that the second does use the expression in its own sentence.
Although that would be strange by itself, in this case it is clear from the next sentence what the speaker is saying, while the exclamation mark serves to adds emphasis.
My dears as a salutation in an email
Much like a phrase such as thank you for your interest can serve as a signature line, the expression “my dear” or “my dears” can be used as a formal salutation when writing emails.
Although this is fine in some dialects, such as Indian English, readers only familiar with American English may think it is ungrammatical.
If you’re emailing someone who is used to American English, it’s best to use “Dear John, Bill, and Suzie,” as a salutation instead. Obviously, you should swap out the names for the correct names first!
If you’re writing to people you don’t know by name, check out our tips on letter of recommendation etiquette for other suggestions.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.