English for Conversations about FAMILY – Questions, Answers, Vocabulary

Family is a must-learn topic if you want to have conversations with real English speakers in everyday situations. We look at different ways to talk about your family (and families in general) using questions, answers and natural spoken English vocabulary.

Questions about family and relatives

Here are some questions about family that you might need to answer or discuss:

  • Do you come from a big family?
  • Can you describe your family?
  • How important is family life in your country?
  • How do you usually spend time with your family?
  • How do you think family life has changed in recent years?
  • Is it better to be older or younger than your siblings?
  • Are “only” children happier than children who have siblings?

Talking about your family in English: phrases

You can use these phrases to describe your family and individual members of your family.

Saying how big your family is

  • My family’s quite small
  • There are only three of us in my family / We’re a family of three (there are 3 people in my family)
  • I have a huge extended family.
  • There are four of us altogether in my family.

Talking about individuals in your family

  • Both of my kids are grown up, now.
  • I’ve got two small children – my eldest is 6 and the other one’s still a toddler.
  • My parents / mum and dad are quite elderly now, but they like to keep busy.
  • My sister’s called Jasmine, and she works as a hairdresser in London.
  • Richard’s my brother, and he lives in Spain.
  • My father-in-law’s a really strange guy.
  • Auntie Naz is on my mum’s side (of the family).

Talking about your relationship with family members

  • I get on/along really well with my sister
  • I’m really close to my dad.
  • My sister and I have a lot in common.
  • My sister and I usually get on/along well with each other.
  • My brother and I often fall out with each other. (we argue or take offence, and then we don’t talk to each other)
  • My brother and I have always got on really well (with each other).
  • My mum’s always been there for me.
  • Of all my siblings, Phil is the one I think I feel closest to.
  • I’m not on very good terms with my mum.
  • My sister and I are real soul mates. (like best friends)
  • My dad’s always been really supportive.

Comparing ages of people in your family

  • older than ….. – My brother’s older than me.
  • elder …… – Jack’s my elder brother. He’s 2 years elder older than me.
  • the eldest – Kim’s my eldest daughter. (She’s the eldest).
  • the oldest … Gramps is the oldest member of our family.
  • younger …… – Jack’s my younger brother. He’s a year younger than me.
  • the same age as – Uncle Pete’s the same age as my dad.
  • as old / young as ….. – Ali’s as old as me / Ali’s as old as I am.
  • the same age – Bill and Ben are the same age (as each other).
  • a year/month/day.. older / younger – my son’s a year older than my daughter.
  • quite a bit older / younger – Murad’s quite a bit older than I am.
  • a lot older / younger – Kay’s a lot older than Phoebe.
  • way older / younger – Bill is way older than Sean.

My family: full answers to questions

Here are some longer answers to family-related questions about age and appearance. You can use example phrases and structures here to build full answers to questions about your own family:

Who are the oldest and youngest people in your family?

Well, my dad’s the eldest member of my family. He’s sixty-one, and he’s about five years older than my mum. I’m the eldest child in my family, and then there’s my brother Jack, who’s 2 years younger than me. I also have two sisters, and Kate is the eldest, followed by Jenny, who’s six years younger than her. Jenny’s the baby of the family.

Describing appearance and personality

My mum’s quite a small lady. She comes across as very quiet, but she’s actually very talkative.
My dad’s quite tall, he’s got short grey hair, and he’s going a bit bald now. He’s a very calm person and doesn’t usually get angry or upset about things.

Key family vocabulary for speaking

The following vocabulary and word combinations (collocations) will help you describe what kind of family you come from, relationships between family members and family activities:

Different kinds of family: collocations

  • a big/large family
  • a happy family
  • a single-parent family
  • a close-knit family
  • immediate family / close family – you, your mum, dad, brothers and sisters (or any other family members you grew up with)
  • extended family – anyone outside your immediate family (cousins, etc)

Family members

  • in-laws – someone connected to your family only by marriage (e.g. your wife’s dad = your father-in-law
  • relatives – people you are related to either by blood or by marriage
  • half-brother / half-sister – a sibling you share only one parent with
  • step-family – family members who are not blood relatives (e.g. your step-brother is a child from different parents to your own).
  • generation: people born at the same period of time (e.g. “in my mum’s generation,…”)
  • distant relatives – relatives not closely linked to your own family (you maybe share a great-grandparent)
  • ancestors – family members (or past generations) who died a long time ago)
  • descendants – your ancestors’ offspring (you and your extended family are descendants of your ancestors)
  • only children – children without brothers and sisters

Family life and activities: collocations + phrases

  • Spend time with the/my family – I enjoy spending time with my family
  • Enjoy family time – I really enjoy family time
  • Start a family – I never planned to start a family.
  • Raise a family – For me, raising a family has been very rewarding.
  • A family man – Luckily, my dad’s always been real family man.
  • Family means a lot to me.

Talking about a typical day with your family

  • Well, in the mornings we all wake up at different times
  • I usually wake my mum up
  • My dad’s usually up (awake) earlier than the rest of us
  • We usually have breakfast together
  • I usually take my younger brother and sister to school
  • We tend to go out for walks together at weekends
  • On a typical evening, we might all stay in and watch TV
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