Family-Related Vocabulary for English-Language Learners

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One of the most important categories of words for English learners to master is the group that includes family-related terms. Family members are likely the people that students interact with early in life and most often. Explain to students that the words and phrases below are used when talking about family and relationships. Each word is categorized and is used in an example sentence to provide context for understanding.

Families

Learning words that describe family members is must for students who want to master English. The table gives the word for the family member on the left, and a sample sentence using that term on the right. To make it easy to find just the term you want, the family-related words are presented in alphabetical order.

Family-Related Word

Example Sentence

aunt

My aunt tells me funny stories about my mother's youth.

brother

My brother is very competitive.

cousin

My cousin left for college last year.

daughter

She has one daughter and one son.

father

My father spent a lot of time on the road for work.

grandchild

That 90-year-old woman has 20 grandchildren!

granddaughter / son

His granddaughter gave him a birthday card with a bunny.

grandfather / mother

Do you remember your grandmothers and grandfathers?

great-grandchild

She has four great-grandchildren and is very happy to be alive and to have met them all!

husband

She sometimes argues with her husband, but that's normal in every marriage.

ex-husband

She had to divorce her ex-husband because he cheated on her.

in-laws

Many people don't get along with their in-laws. Others are happy to have a new family!

son-in-law, daughter-in-law

Her daughter-in-law told her to mind her own business.

mother

Mother knows best, or at least that's what my mother always said.

niece

His niece works in a shop in Seattle selling eyewear.

nephew

I have a nephew who lives in town. It's nice to have lunch every once in a while.

parents

All of us have two biological parents. Some people grow up with adopted parents.

sister

His sister drove him crazy with her constant complaining about the parents.

son

Many people say that sons are harder to raise than daughters because they cause more trouble.

stepfather, stepmother

She gets along wither her stepfather, but she prefers to not call him "Dad."

stepdaughter, stepson

If you marry him, you'll have two stepdaughters and one stepson.

twin

It's amazing how similar some twins are. They look, act, and talk alike.

uncle

My uncle lives in Texas. He's nothing like my father.

widow

She became a widow 20 years ago and never remarried.

widower

The widower is very sad because he's all alone now.

wife

My wife is the most amazing woman in the world because she puts up with me.

ex-wife

His ex-wife took all his money.

Marital Relationships

Marriage brings change. Tell students that these words describe the state of relationships:

  • Divorced: Jennifer is divorced, but she's happy to be single again.
  • Engaged: Helen is engaged to be married next June. She's making plans for the wedding.
  • Married: I've been married for over 25 years. I consider myself lucky.
  • Separated: In many countries, couples must be separated for more than a year in order to divorce.
  • Single: He's a single man living in New York.
  • Widowed: Hank became widowed last year. He hasn't been the same since.

Becoming Family

These verbs describe the process of becoming family:

  • Get divorced (from): My husband and I got divorced three years ago. Now, we're best friends, but we know our marriage was a mistake.
  • Get engaged (to): I got engaged to my wife after just two months of dating.
  • Get married (to): We're planning on getting married in May.
  • Marry someone: She married Tom 50 years ago today. Happy anniversary!
  • Start / end a relationship with someone: I think we should end our relationship. We're not happy with each other.

Family Vocabulary Quiz

Use the context of each sentence to help your students find an appropriate family-related word to fill in the gaps. The answers are provided below.

  1. My father has a brother and a ______, so that means I have one _____ and one aunt on my father's side of the family.
  2. Someday, I hope to have a lot of ______. Of course, that means that the children of my children need to have more children!
  3. After five years of marriage, they decided to get _____ because they couldn't get along with each other. 
  1. Upon her husband's death, she became a _____ and never married again. 
  2. My mother remarried last year. Now, I'm the _____ of my stepfather.
  3. Peter's _____, but he would like to get married and have children one day. 
  4. We started our ______ in Germany after we had met at an English-language school. 
  5. My _____ looks exactly like me, but I was born 30 minutes before she was. 
  6. He has an excellent relationship with his _____. They still celebrate holidays together with their children despite their divorce.
  7. I'm ______ to be married in June! I can't wait!

Answers:

  1. sister / uncle
  2. great-grandchildren
  3. divorced
  4. widow
  5. stepdaughter or stepson
  6. single
  7. relationship
  8. twin
  9. ex-wife
  10. engaged

To continue practicing family-related vocabulary, create a family relationships lesson plan to further your students' knowledge of this important vocabulary.