Talking about Your Family in English

In most languages, the first word children learn is ‘Mum’. Family is so important for most of us that it’s the first thing we learn to speak about. There’s more to speaking about family in English than just ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’, though. Let’s take a look at some more specific English vocabulary you can use to talk about your whole family in English.

Family types

In different cultures around the world and even within cultures, there are different types of families. A nuclear family is a small family – usually just a mother, father and kids. In some places people live with their extended family, which includes more relatives from other generations or parts of the family. Families with kids and only a mother or father we call single-parent families. If you live with a family who aren’t genetically related to you but behave like your family, we can call them your adopted family.

Close family

A close family can refer to a family where all the members have a good relationship with each other. It can also refer to the family members you see most – your parents (mother and father), siblings (brothers and sisters), and your children. For some people’s close family includes a stepparent (someone married to your mother or father who is not your genetic mother or father) or a stepbrother or stepsister (the child of a stepparent and another person who is not genetically-related to you. Another close family member might be a half-sibling (someone who shares one genetic parent with you.

Extended family

Your extended family includes your aunt or uncle (your parent’s siblings) and your cousins (your aunt or uncle’s children). The children of your siblings are your niece (girl) or nephew (boy) and the children of your cousins we call your second cousins. People from other generations can be in your extended family, too. Your parent’s parents are your grandparents and their parents are your great-grandparents.


The in-laws

We can call relatives of a person you are married to your in-laws. You can use it as a compound noun to talk about all of them as a group, or you can attach it to the end of another word to modify it, for example: sister-in-law.

Family friends

For some of us, our friends are just as close to us as our families and this is reflected in the way we talk about them. If you have a very close relationship with a friend, you can say the friend is like a brother or sister to you. In some kinds of slang, people talk about their friends as brothers or sisters. Likewise, someone who you admire and who has taken care of you or supported you could be described as a mother or father figure in your life, even if you are not related.

So, how about your family? Do you have any siblings? Do people usually live with their extended family or as nuclear families in your country? Do you get on well with your in-laws? Share your answers and this article with your friends to get the discussion started.

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