'Family' Vocabulary in French

Family eating together outdoors
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Family is important no matter what language you speak. If you're learning how to speak French, you'll find yourself talking about la familie (the family) among friends and relatives. We'll teach you​ the basic vocabulary for close family and extended relatives, great for use in the home.

Close Family

A French/English dictionary will tell you that the words un parent and une parente are used as generic terms for the "relative." But watch out.

This word could get you in trouble because of a similar phrase, les parents, which usually refers to Mom and Dad. For example:

  • Les parents de Sophie sont charmants. / Sophie’s mom and dad are charming.
  • Mes parents me manquent. / I miss my mom and dad.

But using parent/parente can become confusing in some sentence constructions. Note here the use of the word des:

  • J’ai des parents en Angleterre. / I have some relatives in England.
  • Mes parents sont en Angleterre. / My parents [my mom and dad] are in England.

To avoid this confusion, use the word familie instead. It’s singular and feminine. We may add the adjective éloigné(e) (distant) to make the distinction. For example:

  • Ma famille vient d’Alsace. / My family is from Alsace.
  • J’ai de la famille (éloignée) en Belgique. / I have relatives in Belgium.

Extended Family

Because of the confusion, French speakers don’t use un parent and une parente as often as English speakers do.

Instead, the French language is more specific about identifying relationships:

  • J’ai un cousin aux Etats-Unis. / I have a cousin in the U.S.
  • J’ai un cousin éloigné aux Etats-Unis. / I have a distant cousin in the U.S.

In French, this means s/he is not a first cousin (child of a parent's sibling), but second- or third-degree cousin.

French does not have a special word for a step-sibling. The dictionary would say un beau-frère or une belle-soeur (the same as half-brother or half-sister), but in everyday French, you might choose to use a phrase like quasi frèrequasi soeur (almost brother, almost sister) or else explain your relationship using your step-parent.

French Family Vocabulary List

FatherUn pèreMotherUne mère
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-pèreA stepmother
A mother-in-law
Une belle-mère
A half-brotherUn demi-frèreA half-sisterUne demi-soeur
A step-brotherUn demi-frèreA step-sisterUne demi-soeur
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Your Citation
Chevalier-Karfis, Camille. "'Family' Vocabulary in French." ThoughtCo, Oct. 17, 2017, thoughtco.com/la-famille-french-family-vocabulary-1368103. Chevalier-Karfis, Camille. (2017, October 17). 'Family' Vocabulary in French. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/la-famille-french-family-vocabulary-1368103 Chevalier-Karfis, Camille. "'Family' Vocabulary in French." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/la-famille-french-family-vocabulary-1368103 (accessed January 20, 2018).