I've noticed that sometimes family members are referred to in a weird way(to me) in speech. For example, instead of "I will talk to my mum" or "Give this to your dad", I often hear "I'll talk to mum" and "Give this to dad" instead (no, whoever that talked like this surely isn't my sibling). After asking a friend of mine how his daughter was (she was in hospital), he replied "Daughter is doing well"(again, not my daughter in any sense of the word). Both of these examples sound very awkward to me. I'm wondering if this usage is related to "the wife" (instead of "my wife") or using "sir" or "miss" in third person ("miss asked me to tell you...")? What other people do you refer to in this way?

  • I've never heard anyone refer to their children in this way, but when referring to parents, it is very common to drop the possessive. Growing up, speaking to my siblings, cousins, grandparents, etc. I would often just say 'Dad's at work' or 'Mom's at the store'. I'm more likely to use the possessive 'my' when speaking to people to whom I am not related, but not always. If I told my girlfriend that I'd have 'Dad's car for prom', the possessive is obviously implied. To go out on a limb, I want to say that this could be a vestige of the fact that 'mom' and 'dad' are among one's earliest words. Dec 10, 2014 at 6:26
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    That's perfectly okay, if the usage exists in the local idiolect. A family member's reference with an article or possessive is grammatical and well-worn. Also note that mom , my mom , the [sometimes] mom have distinct implications and usage. It isn't weird at all.
    – Kris
    Dec 10, 2014 at 6:39
  • OP, where do you come from, by the way? Are you a native speaker of English?
    – Kris
    Dec 10, 2014 at 6:41

1 Answer 1


The examples with mum and dad are common usage, and I suspect that's because they are forms of address. My daughter Naomi calls her mother mummy, so when I am talking to my daughter, I also refer to her as mummy. This started because if I'd said Helen or my wife then Naomi wouldn't have known to whom I was referring; but, of course, it becomes established after a while and long outlives its purpose in that respect.

This does seem similar to sir and miss: these are also forms of address that then get used as third person references, though this usage is less well established, and teachers in my experience have discouraged it whenever they've heard it.

The daughter example you give sounds very unnatural to me. I suspect it was a succinct way of writing it in a text message or similar.

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