The English language is full of its subtle nuances, just like any other language is. One thing you must learn is when words are to be capitalized. For instance, do you know the answer to the question, do you capitalize “father”?
The word “father” should be capitalized whenever you’re using it instead of a person’s proper name. However, you should never capitalize the word “father” when it’s following a possessive pronoun (a word that substitutes for a noun and shows ownership e.g. his, her, their).
Capitalizing Common Noun Names Of Relatives
Knowing when to properly capitalize something in the English language can be tricky, especially when it comes to family members. The simplest rule here is to make sure that you always capitalize a person’s first and last names. It’s when it comes to the moms, dads, aunts, uncles, cousins, and possessive nouns that things become a bit more convoluted. Here are a few rules you’ll want to make sure you remember:
- If the common noun’s name is preceded by a possessive pronoun, you want to use lowercase (e.g. He’s going to have a talk with his father.). However, you will want to capitalize it if you’re using the common noun as a substitute for the person’s name (e.g. He’s going to have a talk with Father.) or the common noun is being used as a title (e.g. They attended Grandpa Huff’s birthday party.).
- When you use terms of endearment, these nicknames should be in lowercase. (e.g. I’m jealous of his relationship with his daddy.)
When you remember to follow these capitalization rules you can rest assured that you won’t slight or improperly identify anyone who’s in your common noun family. This way all your family get togethers will hopefully be free from mistakes and drama.
When To Capitalize “Dad” In A Sentence
The word “dad” should only be capitalized when it’s being used as a name. So, if you’re referring to “my dad,” you don’t want to capitalize it. For instance, you wouldn’t capitalize dad when you say something like, “I think my dad is fantastic” because dad is merely a word that’s being used to describe a familial relationship. It isn’t being used as a name in this sentence.
An easy way to remember this rule is to consider whether or not you can replace the word dad with an actual name. If you can do so, then you should capitalize the word. In other words, you should only capitalize the word “father” when it’s being used in place of the person’s real name.
When you use the word “father” as a common noun you shouldn’t capitalize it. This means that if you’re simply referring to fathers and not a specific father, then the word “father” shouldn’t be capitalized. However, if you’re using the word to replace your father’s name, then you would need to capitalize it. This is why you should always check to see if you could sensibly insert your father’s real name in the sentence and if you can, then the word father would need to be capitalized.
Why Isn’t Dad Always Capitalized?
Many people will read through a book and be confused by why the word “dad” or “father” is capitalized in some places but not in others. The answer to this question is actually quite simple: Proper nouns (a name used for an individual person, place, or organization) are always capitalized while common nouns (a noun denoting a class of objects) is never capitalized. This is why the word “dad” or “father” is only capitalized when they’re used to replace someone’s name (proper nouns). However, they should never be capitalized when they’re only being used to describe a generic parental relationship, in which case you’d use their lowercase form. Remember, to figure out when to capitalize the word “father”, simply replace the word with his “real” name.
This grammatical rule should look familiar to you. After all, it’s the same one that we use when we write “my school” (a common noun) vs. “Canevin High School” (a proper noun). We also see it in other places where it’s less recognizable. For instance, “my teacher” (a common noun) vs. Mr. Huffington (a proper noun).
When you see it in these forms it’s usually much easier to determine whether something should be capitalized. You probably would never think to capitalize the common noun because you realize it isn’t a name and only names are capitalized. You also wouldn’t think of writing a name in lower case since we know that names are always capitalized. This just becomes tricky because you’re using the same word in both circumstances but since we intuitively understand the rule here, we shouldn’t let it grow foggier here. Instead, we should simply choose to step back and take a look at how the word is functioning in the sentence.
Use Of The Word “Daddy” In Sentences
When you’re writing to your father and choose to call him daddy, then yes, you’ll want to make sure you capitalize the word. Otherwise the rules of English grammar say that you shouldn’t capitalize it. Oftentimes you’ll see it both capitalized and in lowercase when you’re writing to a friend and refer to their daddy.
As with the word “father”, when you capitalize the word daddy really depends on how you use the word. When the word daddy is used as a direct address or as a proper noun (as a name), then you should capitalize it.
Etymology Of The Word “Father”
The word “father” can be traced back in its origin to several different places. In Old English it’s traced back to the word fæder which means “he who begets a child,” the Supreme Being or the closest male relative. It can also be traced back to late Old English where it means “one who exercises parental care over another.
It can also be traced back to other languages as well. This is especially true of its Proto-Germanic root (*fader) which was then translated into other languages. The other languages that it was translated into include:
- Old Saxon: fadar
- Old Frisian: feder
- Dutch: vader
- Old Norse: faðir
- Old High German: fatar
- German: vater
- Gothic: atta
- Sanskrit: pitar-
- Greek: pater
- Latin: pater
- Old Persian: pita
- Old Irish: athir
Other Important Capitalization Rules To Remember For Family Members
In the same way that the word “father” is sometimes capitalized and at other times written in lowercase, so too are the words brother, sister, aunt, uncle, and other family members. There are a few rules you must remember so you know what the proper way of writing it is. These include:
- When a kinship name immediately precedes a personal name or is being used alone in the place of a personal name, you should capitalize it.
- You should never capitalize a kinship name when you’re using it to describe a personal name and it isn’t part of that personal name itself. Usually this is something that you’ll see happen when there is an article (a word that’s used with a noun phrase a.k.a. a, an; a possessive pronoun a.k.a. His, her, your, our, their) preceding the word.
- You never want to capitalize a kinship name when it follows someone’s personal name or when it isn’t being used to refer to a specific person.
Examples Of When To Capitalize The Word “Father”
- I love you with all my heart Father.
- I love my father with my whole heart.
- I’m going to dinner at Mario’s with Father on Friday night.
- I’m going to lunch at Mc Donald’s with my father on Saturday.
- After school on Monday, Father took me to my karate class.
- After school on Monday, my father took me to my karate class.
- The man I called Father throughout my whole life was the man who was married to my mother.
- My father was a good painter.
- Go ask your father if you can go out with Joyce Saturday night.
- I don’t believe that Father is okay with you and Joyce being together alone.
As you can clearly see there are a lot of subtle nuances found throughout the English language. While this is true in almost every language known to humankind today, it’s still important to not only know that it’s there but to also know what to do about it. One of these nuances has to do with when you capitalize the word “father.”
Throughout this article you have learned that this is a word that’s capitalized only when it’s used to replace someone’s name (e.g. My father went shopping. Father went shopping). Hopefully when you stop to think about this this small nuance now makes a whole lot of sense to you so you can use the word “father” correctly in your writing from now on.
Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He’s one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don’t even want to know what he calls pancakes.