When Do You Capitalize Mom And Dad And Other Family Names?

mom and dad

Is mom capitalized?

Yes, if it is a proper noun.

No, if it comes after a possessive pronoun such as your, my, his, or her.

No, if it’s after an article, a, an or the.

When is Mom or Dad a proper noun?

For my British and Australian readers, yes, this article’s title could also read, mum and dad.

Despite the spelling difference, the punctuation rules defining when to capitalize the words are the same.

So when do you capitalize mom and dad, or mum and dad?

The answer is that when the word is a proper noun, you need to use a capital letter.

Common nouns never take a capital letter. But proper nouns, which are usually names, places, days, and nationalities, always do.

Words such as John, Mary, Thursday, and French all need a capital letter.

With family names based on relationships, you need to decide if you are using a word as a name or a common noun.

In other words, you need to put on your grammar thinking cap to make the right decision.

But fortunately, there is an easy way to get it right every time.

Grandma and Grandpa

When are mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa names?

When you use any of these words or other family titles, take a moment to think if you can replace them with a real name.

Hey Mom, can you buy me some chewing gum when you go shopping?

How was your day at work, Dad?

Oh, Grandma called in while you were out.

Grandpa is getting a bit deaf.

 

You can replace Mom, Dad, Grandma, and Grandpa with a name in these four sentences. Perhaps Lucy, Steve, Mildred, and Tom.

Hey Mom Lucy, can you buy me some chewing gum when you go shopping?

How was your day at work, Dad Steve?

Oh, Grandma Mildred called in while you were out.

Grandpa Tom is getting a bit deaf.

 

When are family titles common nouns?

It is easy to tell when not to use a capital letter. If the word uses a possessive pronoun or an article before it, it is a common noun.

I am sure I saw your dad today at the hardware store.

My mom always calls me on Sunday morning.

Do you know if your uncle can come to the wedding?

Oh boy, I am really looking forward to being a dad!

So you’re an uncle now. How does it feel?

 

In the sentences above, it is impossible to replace the titles with a name. They are all common nouns, so they don’t use a capital letter.

I am sure I saw your Steve dad today at the hardware store.

My Mildred mom always calls me on Sunday morning.

Do you know if your Joe uncle can come to the wedding?

Oh boy, I am really looking forward to being a Steve dad!

So you’re an Andrew uncle now. How does it feel?

 

Parts of speech are the secret

If you are new to writing, understanding grammar use can be challenging at first.

But a good tip is to refresh your knowledge of the basic parts of speech. When you can quickly identify these, it will help you improve your writing accuracy.

In this case, with words such as mom and dad, understanding the difference in the types of nouns will help you.

However, if you are in doubt, you should use a reliable grammar checker to help you make the best decisions.

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent teaching English and writing, as well as testing and taming new technology.

4 thoughts on “When Do You Capitalize Mom And Dad And Other Family Names?

  • October 20, 2020 at 1:10 pm
    Permalink

    Hi Derek,

    I agree with your approach to using Mum and Dad with possessives but personally I would always write my Mum and my Dad, with capitals. With other possessives, small letters.

    Cheers,

    Ian Farley

    Reply
    • October 20, 2020 at 1:59 pm
      Permalink

      I think it’s always about being consistent, Ian. As with a lot of minor punctuation points, if you chop and change it shows a weakness in your writing, But if you are consistent, and know when and why you choose to use capitals in this case, it shows that you know what you are doing.

      Reply
  • January 14, 2020 at 10:26 pm
    Permalink

    Unlike so many things in English, this one I have down. My compliments to you, Derek, as you take out a lot of the mystery to grammar with clear explanations. As a former elementary school teacher for thirty-one years, I appreciate that.

    Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 4:24 pm
      Permalink

      Thank you, Pete. I am pleased to hear that you agree with my keep it simple approach to grammar.

      Reply

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