How to Talk About Your Family in English
It’s that time of year again. The time when you get together with family members you haven’t seen in months to sit around a table and share a meal, celebrating the festive nature of the winter season. So we thought we would take some time to examine how we talk about family in English. How can we describe our family to our friends? What sort of relationships do we have?
When you’re learning English, it helps to know basic terms and how to incorporate them into your conversation, especially at a time of year when we are either visiting our families, or missing them the most.
Different types of families
|Immediate family||Your closest relatives|
|Extended family||Your entire family|
|Nuclear family||Your immediate family, including just the parents and the children|
Exploring the wider family tree
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Your immediate family consists of your parents, your siblings, and your grandparents.
Great-grandfather – your grandmother or grandfather's father
Great-grandmother – your grandmother or grandfather's mother
Grandfather – your mother or father’s father
Grandmother – your mother or father’s mother
Mother – your female parent
Father – your male parent
Brother – a boy who has the same parents as you
Sister – a girl who has the same parents as you
Twin – sibling born at the same time as you
“I have a big immediate family, with 6 sisters and 4 brothers all living in the same house!
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Your extended family consists of anyone else you might be related to, no matter how distant your relation is.
Aunt – your mother or father’s sister
Uncle – your mother or father’s brother
Cousin – the child of your aunt or uncle
Nephew – the son of your brother or sister
Niece – the daughter of your brother or sister
“My aunt and uncle live 20 minutes from my house. We have dinner with them every Sunday.”
Family by marriage
When you get married, you take on your spouse’s family. These people are known as your “in-laws.”
Brother-in-law – a man who marries your sibling
Sister-in-law – a woman who marries your sibling
Father-in-law – the father of your spouse
Mother-in-law – the mother of your spouse
“I get along very well with my mother-in-law! She even taught me how to cook an old family recipe.”
Describing your family
Family is a common topic in every day conversation, so how can you explain to your new friends a bit more about where you come from?
To take after someone means to have a similar personality trait or physical appearance.
- I take after my mother. We have the exact same nose.
- He is a really good singer. He takes after his father in that way.
To bring up, or be brought up, means to be taught or raised.
- Guillaume was brought up with good morals.
- My grandmother brought me up well.
- I was brought up in Italy.
Runs in the family
This refers to a specific characteristic or trait that appears in many family members.
- Red hair runs in the family.
- I wasn’t surprised about how much he ate. A large appetite runs in the family.
Take a look at our video to get a closer look at how families are connected in the English language:
Hopefully you feel a bit more confident now that you’ve examined some of the basic terms. Or are there any words or phrases about family that we may have left out? Let us know on our Facebook channel in the comment section below.