1. katica
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    katica New Member

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    When to capitalize mother and father

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by katica, Jun 6, 2011.

    I know that if you are saying something like . . .

    "All mothers have children."

    You don't capitalize mother because we are talking about all mothers.

    And I also know that when you say . . . .

    "Mother! I'm scared!"

    You're using mother as a name, so you do capitalize it.

    But I get confused when I write . . . .

    "My (M)mother is the greatest human being ever."

    Do I capitalize mother or not? Because I am talking about MY specific mother, but I'm not necessarily calling her by the name of Mother.

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  2. darkhaloangel
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    darkhaloangel New Member

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    No. Because you are refering to the role and not the name.

    Just put a name in place of mother or father. If it reads right, then capitalise, if not don't.

    So...

    My Hannah is the greatest human being ever.

    Doesn't read right, so no capitals.

    Hope that helps.
    1 person likes this.
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Supporter Contributor

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    actually, 'my Hannah' would read right, just as the acclaimed novel's title, 'My Antonia' does...

    but you're right in that 'mother' shouldn't be capitalized when it's not being used as a name...
  4. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Senior Member Contributor

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    Stick to your original rule of thumb. If it is used as a proper name it is capitalized, as would be any other proper name - Joe, Martha, Danny, Mark, Leslie, Mother, Mom, Dad ...

    In the example you use, "My mother is the greatest ..." the word 'mother' is not being used in place of a proper name and so it would not be capitalized. If, on the other hand, you were talking to someone about your family tree and had just given a dissertation on why Aunt Maybelle, or cousin Lars are such wonderful people but you are preparing to counter that with instances of why your mother is even better, you would say, "Yes. They are really incredible but Mother is still the greatest." (In this case, the word "Mother" is being used in place of her name.) I mean, you could be one of the wierd ones and actually call your maternal parent "My Mother" but that would just be ... wierd.
  5. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Breaking Beard Contributor

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    Except that it doesn't read right. It may read as grammatically correct, but it sounds possessive and stupid. What the full sentence implies is: "My mother is the greatest mother in the world." We cut the second mention of the word out. Therefore, "My Hannah is the greatest Hannah in the world," is quite ridiculous. It's the kind of thing a four year old says. In fact, my niece, who is four, DOES say that kind of thing, referring to my other niece as "My Shaye".

    While the novel title is fine, use in a sentence is to be moderated, I think.


    Proper noun. There's no such thing as a "proper name". It is a Proper NOUN. Like New York, or Brisbane, or The Beatles, or Jon, or Facebook.
  6. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Senior Member Contributor

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    Uh, no. I said proper name because that's what I meant. It is a phrase interchangeably used to refer to what is also called a proper noun and ... it is perfectly acceptable terminology. But thanks anyway.
    Also, be aware that, while all proper names are proper nouns, not all proper nouns are proper names.
  7. katica
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    katica New Member

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    Regardless of whether "My Hannah" could be appropriate or not, this is an extremely helpful tip. I don't think I will ever have the problem again now. =D Thank you!
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