La Famille - French Family Vocabulary

French Family Vocabulary - La Famille
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In this article, we’ll explore the French vocabulary for the family, “la famille”, and over a couple of lessons, I’ll explain some tricky words such as “relatives” “step ≠ in law”, siblings...

First, let’s look at some basic French vocabulary words about the family:

The French Word for Family

Is “la famille”. It’s singular and feminine.

J’ai une grande famille. 
I have a large family.

French Family Vocabulary List

  Masculine Feminine
FatherUn pèreMotherUne mère
DadPapaMomMaman
GrandfatherUn grand-pèreGrand-motherUne grand-mère
(note no e at grand)
HusbandUn mariWifeUne femme
(pronounced "fam")
ChildUn enfant Une enfant
(no e)
SonUn fils
(L silent, s pronounced)
DaughterUne fille
GrandchildrenLes petits-enfants  
GrandsonUn petit-filsGranddaughterUne petite-fille
UncleUn oncleAuntUne tante
CousinUn cousinCousinUne cousine
First CousinUn cousin germainFirst cousinUne cousine germaine
Second CousinUn cousin issu de germainsSecond cousinUne cousine issue de germains
NephewUn neveuNieceUne nièce
A stepfather
A father-in-law 
 
Un beau-père
(see explanation here)
A stepmother
A mother-in-law
Une belle-mère
 
A half-brotherUn demi-frèreA half-sisterUne demi-soeur
A step-brotherIt's complicated... see here!A step-sisterIt's complicated - same remark.

 

To learn sweet French relatives names, such as Dad and Auntie, I invite you to read my French baby words article.

French Relatives

If you looked in a dictionary, you’d find the word “un parent / une parente” for relative. But watch out, this word could get you in trouble since “Les parents (usually used in the plural) refer to Mom and Dad.

Les parents de Sophie sont charmants.
Sophie’s Mom and Dad are charming.

Mes parents me manquent.
I miss my mom and Dad.

So, now, if you said “j’ai des parents en Angleterre”, you’d be saying “I have some relatives in England”. Note the use of the “des” here. On the contrary, if you said “mes parents sont en Angleterre”, you’d be saying “my parents (my mom and dad) are in England”... Confusing indeed.

So confusing that we tend to avoid to use the French word for relative: we’d just use the same word as “family”. We may add the adjective “éloigné(e)” as in “distant” to make the distinction.

It will become clearer with examples

Ma famille vient d’Alsace.
My family is from Alsace.

J’ai de la famille (éloignée) en Belgique.
I have relatives in Belgium.
Or
J’ai des parents en Belgique (less common) I have relatives in Belgium.

So, because of the confusion, in French we just don’t use the word “relative” as much as you do in English.

We precise which sort of relative we have:

J’ai un cousin aux Etats-Unis – I have a cousin in the US.
J’ai un cousin éloigné aux Etats-Unis – I have a distant cousin in the US.

I’m not sure you’d say “a distant cousin”, it seems to me in the US you’d just say “a relative” then... In French, this means s/he is not a first cousin (child of a sibling), but second or third degree cousin...

Now, let's talk about the recomposed / blended / step family in French and siblings in general, as well, and let me warn my American readers about a big faux-pas !

Then, we'll practice this French family vocabulary in the context of an easy to understand – and fun – story.

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