I received an invitation for a session at my son's (John) school. The teacher had asked us to confirm our attendance for the event. I wrote the following

John's Dad and I will be attending the session.

(And signed my name below the note).

Is this usage correct? Does it in any way imply that we are not living together?

  • 3
    For many people, it would surely imply that you are not living with him; otherwise you should have written "My husband and I ... "
    – user19148
    Oct 6, 2012 at 10:16
  • 8
    "John's Dad" is certainly incorrect. Should be "John's dad".
    – RegDwigнt
    Oct 6, 2012 at 10:26
  • 1
    I don't see any implication one way or the other. John is the focus of attention, so it's perfectly normal to refer to his father (or dad, if you want to be informal). If you say to your naughty son "You just wait 'til your father gets home!", do you suppose the kid thinks his parents are about to split up? Oct 6, 2012 at 11:31
  • Do you happen to be in a place where there are cultural implications one way or the other?
    – Kris
    Oct 6, 2012 at 11:43
  • @user19148 I'm no native, but it seems to be that the risk of interpreting "John's dad and I" as if the OP and John's dad are no longer living together, is about as high/low as the risk of interpreting "My husband and I ..." as if her husband is not actually John's dad. Am I wrong?
    – m.a.a.
    Feb 9, 2023 at 14:20

6 Answers 6


While there's technically an ambiguity, I think that the general assumption made by the reader will be that you are John's mother and nothing more. Based on this single statement, I don't think that the reader is going to be led to believe that you are separated from your husband/John's father. It is also quite common—in PTA meetings and such—to refer to the husband (who is often absent) as <name>'s father.

(The ambiguity does not necessarily only indicate that you might not be living together with John's father. It could also imply that you are not his mother. Moreover, even if your family name matches that of John, it could well be that you are his sister, grandmother or aunt. I expect that the easiest way to avoid this situation altogether would be to reply with something along the lines of, "Yes, we will be attending this session", and "sign" underneath as, "Mr. and Mrs. Doe", if necessary.)

  • 1
    -1 Sorry, the question was: 'Is this usage correct? Does it in any way imply that we are not living together?'
    – Kris
    Oct 6, 2012 at 12:00
  • 1
    @Kris ... which is why my answer begins with "While there's technically an ambiguity" and later also explains what the ambiguities might be. As stated in my explanation, the statement in question does not necessarily (only) imply that the writer is not living with the child's father. Oct 6, 2012 at 12:02
  • I may be a bit slow today, but did you answer Yes? or was that a No? (Is this usage correct?) Incidentally, the OP just cannot edit her letter to the teacher anymore -- so alternatives are not part of the answer I'm afraid. :)
    – Kris
    Oct 6, 2012 at 12:12
  • Sorry, coleopterist, I'm with @Kris on this one. You don't seem to have answered the question here.
    – user16269
    Oct 6, 2012 at 18:35
  • @Kris I've updated my answer to make my stance explicit. Please read. cc: David Oct 7, 2012 at 7:42

The usage is correct. It also makes clear that the person who is the father figure in John's life currently will participate.

It does not imply living, marital or birth arrangements for you or John's dad. The adult to whom you are referring

  • may or may not live with you
  • may or may not live with John
  • may or may not be married to you
  • may or may not be John's biological father
  • may or may not have legal guardianship or custody of John

Regardless of which combinations of the options listed above apply, the a male person who has a parental role in John's life will be present. That is probably what the school is most interested in.

That being said, people make all sorts of assumptions about marital status, living arrangements, parental history and so forth, based on their world view, not necessarily based on your communication. That is their problem, not yours.


Is it correct, yes -- is it possibly misleading, yes, in the head of the reader. I am noticing ambiquity in many, maybe most informal communication. Politicians are expert at it.

  • There are those who would say that 'is it possibly misleading, yes' entails that it is incorrect. Violation of Gricean maxims (including lying ... possibly carelessly misleading, confusing the reader) can be seen as less acceptable than being ungrammatical. Feb 9, 2023 at 11:56

The way that you wrote your sentence makes me think that you and John's dad are no longer together but will attend. A wife does not usually refer to her husband/boyfriend as John's dad.

If you were together and attending:

Bill and I will be attending the session.

The teacher can infer that Bill is your husband if he/she does not already know.


You are right.

There's nothing to imply what is not patently stated in the sentence. Any interpretations drawn by the reader are not just subjective but unwarranted, in the context.

  • 2
    No, they are warranted because of the unusual construction of the reply. The recipient is likely to wonder "Why has she said that instead of 'We'?" The sentence implies a certain distance between "John's dad" and "I".
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 6, 2012 at 12:56
  • 1
    @AndrewLeach I would have to disagree. In this particular communication between the mother and the teacher, what should matter to the teacher is that the man mentioned is John's dad, not that he is the mother's husband. Therefore, referring to "John's dad" is kind of the default, and referring to him in any other way would raise questions about why the person was referred to in that way. In particular, if the mother had written "my husband and I will attend the session", there is a stronger implication that the man in question is NOT John's dad.
    – user16269
    Oct 6, 2012 at 18:33
  • re @DavidWallace comment. Isn't that so? Certainly.
    – Kris
    Oct 7, 2012 at 5:17

Others have pointed out, correctly, that you did not say anything to imply that you are not living together. But you asked this question, I presume, because you knew it might give someone that impression. I think your doubt is justified, not because of the phrasing, but the choice to use that phrasing. It's "conspicuously non-default," in the sense that, if you have (apparently, to the reader) gone out of your way to say this in a way that is not normal usage, there must be some reason why.

Bib's answer lists the things that may now be bidden to the reader's head as possible reasons. The reader is probably, at least, going to think "I should be aware that that there may be something non-traditional about this relationship, since the writer has made an effort to go out of the normal way in describing it." And, by "normal," I think "my husband and I will attend" is what people would think of as "normal."

You and the father not living together; being divorced; never having lived together; etc, are all in the mix of possibilities. You did not actively imply it, but the fact of the non-default is likely to bring it up in the head of "the average" reader.

Having said all of that--if you sent that to a teacher, they probably assumed exactly nothing. They are exposed to hundreds of families over the years, which are in all kinds of situations/arrangements, to the extent that they've likely learned by experience that it would be a mistake to infer anything that wasn't stated. The same is likely true for any profession that interacts with large numbers of families in intimate enough circumstances (e.g. health care, counseling, clergy).

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