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How to talk about family

My sister's husband's nieces and nephews are my...

Talking about your immediate family members in English is fairly simple, but what about all those extended family members or relatives? Some families are incredibly complex, and it can get quite hairy explaining all the connections between you and them. In this post I'll give you some less common vocabulary, as well as 2 diagrams that show different family connections.


Family Members

Your mom, dad and brothers and sisters are generally considered your immediate family, and when you grow up and move out of the house and start your own family, your husband or wife and children also become your immediate family. Basically, it's the family that you live with. Everyone else in your family like your aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents etc. are called your relatives.

When you get married, you acquire a "new" family, the family of your spouse (husband - man, wife - woman). Your spouse's family is referred to as your in-laws. So, your spouse's mother is your mother in-law, their father is your father in-law, etc. etc.

Imagine you have some children with your first marriage, but then your relationship doesn't work out, so you get a divorce and remarry. Your new spouse also has children, those children become your step children, and you become their step mother or father.

I highly recommend watching the Netflix series Modern Family, it's hilarious and is a great way to understand even the most complex family relationships!

Here are a few terms to remember, as they are often false friends in both Italian and Spanish:

  • parents = mom and dad

  • siblings = brothers and sisters

  • son = boy child

  • daughter = girl child

  • children = sons and daughters (even when they aren't small kids anymore!)

  • relatives = extended family

  • niece = brother or sister's daughter

  • nephew = brother or sister's son

  • grandchild = son or daughter of son or daughter


Family Relationships

You can't choose your family, so perhaps you will get along with them, perhaps not! You might enjoy the company of your parents and siblings, but not of your relatives, or vice versa! If you are a tight knit family, it means you are close to your family members. Other families prefer to see each other only for family gatherings on holidays and birthdays, and that's enough for them. What kind of family connections are common in your country?



  • immediate family: the family that you live with

  • extended family members/relatives: the family that you don't live with

  • get hairy: idiom for - to get or be difficult

  • grow up: to age and mature (only for people and animals, not objects)

  • spouse: your husband or wife

  • in-laws: your husband or wife's family

  • get a divorce: to separate from your spouse

  • step children: the children of your second (or third..) spouse (when you live together)

  • step mother or father: the second (or third..) spouse of one of your parents

  • hilarious: really funny

  • get along with: to have a good relationship with someone

  • tight knit: idiom for - close or very connected

  • to be close to: to have a good relationship with a person

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