Very recently I have learned that 'father' and 'mother' (or, more exactly, 'to father' and 'to mother') can be English verbs. However, I doubt if I have properly understood their meanings. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, 'to father' means 'to be a producer of smth' whereas 'to mother' can sometimes mean 'to give birth.' Personally I think the latter sounds slightly better, though I am not sure at all. (But, as I know, 'to give birth' is not necessarily restricted to women and their children.)

So, which phrase is better: "Thoughts father actions" or "Thoughts mother actions", if, of course, such sentences are possible in modern English?

  • 3
    Both are grammatical. Neither is in everyday conversational register, at least not in AmE, where you are more likely to hear "is the father of" and "is the mother of". For example, Necessity is the mother of invention. The verb to mother in everyday speech means "to care for, to nurture" not to "give birth to", and to father means to be the biological father of, not "to care for as a father would".
    – TimR
    Nov 10, 2017 at 10:45
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo "a collection of Irish stories was fathered on him" in this case, he is not the biological father?
    – 1010
    Nov 10, 2017 at 11:53
  • 1
    @1010: There's no biology involved there. It could mean that someone was alleging that he was the author, or that someone had done something to make him appear to be the author. To be fathered on is a passive form of "to father on", which in its biological sense, takes a "her" as the object of "on". The meanings are quite different.
    – TimR
    Nov 10, 2017 at 12:06
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo but the comment at the top says "to father means to be biological father",but in "a collection of Irish stories was fathered on him" father refers to author.
    – 1010
    Nov 10, 2017 at 12:16
  • @1010: what exactly is your question?
    – TimR
    Nov 10, 2017 at 12:17

1 Answer 1


I think both are correct, and express exactly the same meaning. There shouldn't be any ambiguity in the two expressions. Thoughts are the source or originator of our actions (oxford, figurative usage - to father means to be the source or originator of sth).

Thoughts give birth to actions (as mother gives birth to a child). According to me the two expressions should be interchangeable. Thanks.

  • 1
    They don't express exactly the same meaning - to mother something can also mean to nurture, or to be overly protective.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 10, 2017 at 12:47

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