When Should You Capitalize Dad, Mom, And Other Family Titles?

It’s natural to want to give family members all the honors—after all, in our lives, they are some of the most important people. But are their titles capitalized? Is it proper to address mom as Mom or refer to your favorite aunt as Aunt Viv?

✏️ Should family member titles be capitalized?

Family member titles are capitalized when used as a title immediately before a person’s name (I adore Aunt Lisa) or when the title is used in place of their name (Where’s the milk, Mom?). Do not capitalize names that refer to common nouns: Those two men are fathers or This class is for expectant mothers.

When to capitalize family member titles

You should capitalize family member titles when addressing your own relatives: hello, Mother. A good rule to follow is to capitalize them if they are used as proper nouns, as in the previous example. The word Mother is a proper noun standing in for the mother’s name.

Even if a title isn’t being used to directly address someone, it is always acting as a proper noun—and should be capitalized—if it replaces a person’s name. For example, the word Dad is capitalized in the sentence I went fishing with Dad this morning even though the speaker is not talking directly to their dad. You can easily see that Dad is a proper noun if you switch in a name, as in I went fishing with Brian this morning.

Family member titles are also capitalized when used immediately before a family member’s name: I invited Uncle Chet to the baseball game. In this case, this is not a direct address. Instead, the title is being used as a proper noun similar to other respectful titles such as Miss, Doctor, Captain, or Professor.

Examples of capitalized family member titles

  • Hey, Mom, where’s the remote control?
  • Dad, I’m going to the store now.
  • Grandma, are you joining us for dinner tonight?
  • Grandad drove Audrey to the airport.
  • I lived with Ma and Pa on the farm.
  • Daniel will finally meet Uncle Maurice at the family reunion.

When not to capitalize family member titles

If used as common nouns, don’t capitalize, as in: We honor all mothers in May. In other words, capitalize words such as Mother, Father, Grandmother, Grandfather, Son, Daughter, and Sis when they are used in place of the person’s name. But there is one exception: they are not capitalized when they follow possessive pronouns such as her, his, my, our, your.

Whether or not a noun is a common or proper noun often depends on how the sentence is written. Make sure you know how a noun is specifically being used in a sentence so that you’ll know whether to capitalize the family member title or not. For example:

Common noun: I went to the mall with my cousin, Jenny.
Proper noun: I went to the mall with Cousin Jenny.

Examples of family member titles not capitalized

  • Margo and her mom are going to the museum.
  • My brother is visiting from Chicago until Sunday.
  • Several fathers volunteered to help clean up the playground.
  • The children interviewed their grandparents for a class assignment.

So go ahead and capitalize the names of those important family members in your life, but remember not to capitalize when using a possessive pronoun or talking about family in general.

Previous Why Do We Capitalize The Pronoun "I"? Next "Smelled" vs. "Smelt": How To Sniff Out The Difference