Should 'Mum' and 'Dad' Be Capitalised? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 21 June 2024)

Should Family Titles Be Capitalised?

When used as proper nouns (i.e. as names), Mum (also spelt Mom in American English), Dad, Uncle, Grandma and the like are capitalised:

✅ Can I watch TV after finishing my homework, Mum?
❌ Can I watch TV after finishing my homework, mum?

✅ Could you give me a lift to the stadium, Dad?
❌ Could you give me a lift to the stadium, dad?

'I have a surprise for you,' Uncle said.
'I have a surprise for you,' uncle said.

The photos reminded me of the very last time I saw Grandma.
The photos reminded me of the very last time I saw grandma.

In each of the above sentences, the family title is used as if it were a person's name.

However, when these terms are used as common nouns (i.e. not as names), they are not capitalised. Generally, there will be a possessive determiner (e.g. my, his, her, and your) or an article (i.e. a, an, and the) in front of them:

My mum said I could watch TV after finishing my homework.
My Mum said I could watch TV after finishing my homework.

His dad gave him a lift to the stadium.
His Dad gave him a lift to the stadium.

Our uncle gave every one of us a big surprise.
Our Uncle gave every one of us a big surprise.

Winnie became a grandma at the age of 62.
Winnie became a Grandma at the age of 62.

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Examples from the Media

And last December, on that Friday, was the last time I spoke to Mum. She was in a hospice by then, my dad sitting outside her window as he had been every day since lockdown started in March, and I was talking to her via Dad's FaceTime. The Guardian (2021)

Grandma had purple hair and ran pubs in The Rocks. On the side, she was an SP bookie. My mum Lenore, or "Le" as she was known, and her sister Betty used to play the piano and dance for the American soldiers. When I was eight or nine, Grandma used to slip me a little glass of beer. —The Sydney Morning Herald (2019)

"She couldn't tell me who was dead; she could only say who had survived," Anglade said at the time. "She told me, this person survived or that person survived. So I asked, 'Mom and Dad?' That's when I realized I'd lost everything at once: my father, my mother, my uncle and my cousin." —Toronto Star (2022)

I'm sure Dad and I talked that day and shared a happy moment, but I just took it for granted then. —The Washington Post (2016)


Choose the correct answer to complete each sentence.

1. Being a single Mum/mum is never easy.

2. That dress looks good on Mum/mum.

3. Neither Dad/dad nor I knew what was going on.

4. My Dad/dad bought me a new mobile phone.

5. Walter is like an Uncle/uncle to us.

6. We are going to visit Uncle/uncle Sam tomorrow.

7. Where does Grandpa/grandpa live?

8. My Grandpa/grandpa is 91 years old.

Answer Key

1. mum    2. Mum    3. Dad    4. dad    5. uncle    6. Uncle    7. Grandpa    8. grandpa

Real-World Examples of Misuse

The rubric can be expressed more concisely as Complete the following sentences using either the past continuous or the simple past.
1. The plural form sentences should be used because there are multiple sentences in this exercise.
2. Mum should be capitalised in this instance as it is a proper noun (referring to a specific person, in this case, the speaker's mother). Alternatively, you could say my mum.
(Also by Spencer Lam: 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10/12)

1. Permanentirreversible and irreparable are arguably better word choices for describing damage than irrecoverable. Even though irrecoverable can mean 'unable to be remedied or rectified', it more commonly collocates with losses, meaning that someone is unable to get back what he or she has lost. Google Ngram supports the idea that irrecoverable damage is not a usual collocation.
2. Damage is uncountable in this context.
3. This is more natural sounding than saying leave such regrets in your life.
4. Mum and Dad should be capitalised when they are used as proper nouns (i.e. as names).
(Source: Billy Ng)

(Image Source: HKDSE English Language 2014: Examination Report and Question Papers)
(Also by HKEAA: 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10/11/12/13/14/15)

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