Do You Capitalize “Mom” and “Dad”? When and When Not To


do you capitalize mom and dad

In general practice, people often resort to the use of perfect grammar when writing personal messages or even formal messages. At some point, you must have wondered, if you are to capitalize “Mom” and “Dad”? When and when not to do so in various instances.

When a family title word (Mom or Dad) is being used as a replacement for the name of the referred person, then it is capitalized. However, in instances other than that, the family title is not capitalized in the sentence. 

Although this oversimplifies things a little bit, the rules to adopt for capitalization in certain scenarios and the exceptions are still yet to be covered. Meaning there are scenarios where different approaches need to be adopted when you ask yourself if you capitalize “Mom” and “Dad”. These shall be explained in the upcoming sections. 

mom sign in capitals with flowers

Aren’t the Words “Mom” and “Dad” a General Family Title Term?

In the English language, you will find that some words belong to different grammatical categories without experiencing any change in their form. The words, “Mom” and “Dad” are examples of such a phenomenon, i.e, depending on the situation, we can use these words as both, common nouns as well as proper nouns. For example; 

  • Proper Noun: I can’t go to the movies today because Mom didn’t give permission.

In this sentence, the word “Mom” is giving a directly specifying a distinct person in this statement. So even when it is used as a replacement for the name of a person, it is still identified as a person specific noun. 

So when the question arises in your mind if you do capitalize “Mom” and “Dad”; When and when not to capitalize would instantly become crystal clear in your mind upon understanding the basic idea.  

Are There Any Hard and Fast Capitalization Rules Which These Words Follow?

While trying to understand the concept of capitalization and grammatical category on when and when not to capitalize the words “Mom” and “Dad” may be confusing at times, it would be better to focus towards understanding a series of capitalization rules which these words follow. As we do this the relevance for capitalizing these words will be more consistent and clear.

grammarly

Following are some rules which help define the different rules.

  • Family Titles Being Used In Place of a Person’s Name

If either “Mom” or “Dad” is being used to directly refer to a person’s name, then it will be considered as a proper noun and thus, it will be capitalized. For example in the sentence 

  • “Hey, could you ask Mom what’s for dinner tonight?” 

“Mom” is being used as a name. To make things simpler, think of these words like nicknames. If you are using these words to refer to your parents as you would by using their actual names, then they will be capitalized. This holds true for any family title, for instance, “Mom”, “Dad”, “Grandfather”, “Grandmother”, “Brother”, and “Sister”, etc. Here’s another example to make things more clear.

  • “Let’s have a barbeque party with Dad.”

These examples clearly illustrate the adequate use of the words under the rule. 

  • A Pronoun Preceding a Family Title

If the words “Mom” or “Dad” are followed by any type of pronoun, then they are grammatically considered as common nouns and we all know that a common noun is never capitalized. To understand this rule better, consider the example shown below:

  • “My grades have lowered significantly, as a result, my mom grounded me”.

In this sentence, the word “mom” is preceded by a pronoun “my” (which is also known as a possessive pronoun or a possessive adjective). According to the rule, whenever these words are being used with a pronoun, then they are to be treated as a common noun. Hence, the word “mom” remains uncapitalized. However, if we were to slightly rephrase the sentence and omit the pronoun, then the result would be the capitalization of the word “Mom” as shown below:

  • “My grades dropped significantly in the result card and Mom grounded me as a punishment.”

As you can see, since there is no pronoun alongside the word “Mom”, it is considered as a proper noun and thus, capitalized. 

  • If The Word Comes at The Start of The Sentence

This is one of the most basic grammatical rules and even applies here as well. If the word “Mom” and “Dad” are being used to start the sentence itself, then by default, they will be capitalized every time. For example,

  • Dad told me to wait in the house.
  • Mom was asking me what I wanted to eat for dinner.

The word “Dad” and “Mom” are capitalized because of the convention that every word starting the sentence will always be capitalized. However, it is important to remember the fact that even if these words were not placed at the beginning, they would still be capitalized because they are being used as proper nouns.

  • An Article Preceding The Family Title

Just as how we consider the word as a common noun if a pronoun is attached to it, similarly, if we are using an article (a, an, the), then the words “Mom” and “Dad” will not be capitalized. For example

  • In every kid’s life, a mom is a central figure.
  • For every household, a dad is a strong pillar supporting the family.

So, to sum up, the rules, if you are using a pronoun or an article along with the words “Mom” and “Dad”, then you will not capitalize on them. However, if you are not using an article or pronoun, then you will capitalize these words.

dad sign in wooden letters

Could There Possibly Be Any Exception to The Mentioned Rules?

It is always possible that whenever there are some to the point standardized rules, there are bound to be a few exceptions that stand as opposed to the standard logic of the rule. The set of rules shown above have a few exceptions.

  • Capitalization in Quotation Marks

If a complete sentence is nested within the original sentence using quotation marks, then the first word will always be capitalized. It is very common for people to forget that each statement mentioned in the quotation marks is a new sentence that has a completely varying idea. For example,

  • Samantha says, “Mom doesn’t want me to play around all day.”

In this example, the statement within the quotation marks is present a varying idea and thus in order to preserve the exact wording and meaning of the statement, the sentence is placed under the quotation marks. 

  • Non-Capitalization When Family Title Only Refers to The Relationship

If the family title reflects the relationship rather than the proper noun, then it will not be capitalized, for example

  • Mom told me to go help out father in the garage.

What Do You Do When You Are Using The Words “Mom” and “Dad” More Than One Time in a Sentence?

One of the most common confusions that you will come across is when you are using the words “Mom” and “Dad” in the same sentence as a proper noun and in the next instance, as a common noun. However, if you follow the rules, the answer is simple, capitalize it when it is being used as a nickname and don’t when it is being used with a pronoun or an article. For example,

  • “Seeing my dad as I grew up, I came to realize being a dad is not easy and still, Dad managed to fulfill his responsibilities and be an exemplary parent for me.”

If we discard the rules and try to guess which instance of the word “Dad” we need to capitalize, then things become quite chaotic. Instead, we used the rule of ‘pronouns and articles preceding the family title’ and ‘family title being used as a name’ to answer our question of ‘do you capitalize “Mom” and “Dad”? When and when not to”.

What Are Examples of the Common Use of These Words?

Generally, people do not give much thought to the capitalization of these words. Here are a bunch of examples that you will find commonly scattered in conversations and texts.

  • My Mom asked me if you want to have dinner with us.
  • Today, I went to the garage to help out dad with his work.
  • I wonder if mom is going to bake a chocolate cake today.
  • I helped my Dad in cooking breakfast in the morning.

In all of these sentences, the capitalization of the words “Mom” and “Dad” are incorrect. We will discuss the proper rules for doing so in the upcoming sections.

mom and dad kiss baby

So, When Should We Capitalize The Words “Mom” and “Dad”?

To conclude the discussion, the words “Mom” and “Dad” can be used as proper nouns and common nouns. When they are being used as a proper noun, they need to be capitalized at all times. If they are being used as a common noun, they don’t need to be capitalized.

So, when writing “Mom” and “Dad” in a sentence, these are the rules of thumb we need to keep present in order to do it properly.

Shawn Manaher

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.

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