Learn English – “father to” vs. “father of”


Would it be grammatically correct to write

Mister X is father to a son and a daughter

or should one preferably choose the preposition of?

Mister X is father of a son and a daughter.

If both are correct, is there a difference in meaning? Could a step-dad perhaps only say that he is "father to a son" but not of him, if he is not the son's biological father (along the lines of expressions like "he is like a father to me")?

Is there any reference in BE/AE with respect to "father to" vs. "father of"?

Best Answer

I appears that the pragmatics owe to the classification of the prepositions.

of is a preposition of possession:

Father of a son

--> "belongs to" or "relates to" cf "members of the family"

to is a preposition of value:

Father to a son

cf "What does that matter to me?" --> "What is its value to me?"

Caveat: "Most common adpositions are highly polysemous (they have various different meanings). In many cases a primary, spatial meaning becomes extended to non-spatial uses by metaphorical or other processes." Preposition and postposition – 7 Semantic functions (Wikipedia)