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.


family in english dinner
One of the best parts of the holidays is sharing a tasty meal with your family


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

family tree

Embed this infographic on your site:


Immediate family

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!

Hand-picked related content: HOW TO TALK ABOUT YOURSELF IN ENGLISH

family in english twins
How many siblings do you have?


Extended family

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.”


family in english photos
It's amazing how quickly your family can grow!


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?


Take after

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.


family in english feet
How would you describe your family?


Brought up

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. 



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