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When do we need to put articles before family members for instance sometimes I hear people saying dad and other time a dad. What's the rule?

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When used as a proper noun (the name that a child uses to address or refer to their father, as in Hello Dad!, I'm speaking to Dad) it's capitalized, and doesn't take an article...

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When it just identifies a family relationship (as in I gave it to a brother, ...a sibling, ...a cousin) it's not capitalized and does take an article...

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TL;DR:
As a name, Dad is capitalized, and doesn't normally take an article (The Dad, A Dad, The John, A John are all unlikely / invalid).

As a family relationship, dad is an informal alternative to father which is not capitalized. It can be preceded by an article or pluralized (John is a dad now, The dads took their children to the park).

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    I might be good to be explicit that, when just describing a family relationship, words like "dad", "sister", "brother", etc., behave like other improper nouns. (Currently you only mention articles and pluralization.) We can have "a dad", "the dad", "my dad", "your dad", and "most dads"—just like we can have "a cat", 'the cat", "my cat", "your cat", and "most cats". The way that the question was phrased makes me wonder if that was unclear. Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 0:52
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    "Her dads" is definitely fine. Even if we aren't referring to the married fathers of a child, I could also imagine the organizer of an outing for fathers saying, "Ok, where are my dads?" to refer to the group—not particularly formal, but also not uncommon. Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 6:14
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    @ChrisBouchard also step-parents are frequently referred to simply as "mum" or "dad" without the qualification of "step-"
    – Tristan
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 9:32
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    I suspect that "to dad" in the first graph is artificially high. Some may be due to lazy typing/phone input, but then there are things like "My kids don't like me to dad dance" ("dad joke" is another rare phrasal verb, more commonly a noun). "Dad" can also rarely and colloquially be used as a verb (Dictionary.com: "to act as a father toward")
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 10:22
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    @FumbleFingers the sitcom "My two Dads" dates back to 1987. The insertion of "two" doesn't change the concept much
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 10:27

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