Family – Members of my family

Introduction

First, to talk about the family, we need to learn the vocabulary to describe the members of the family. Then we are going to look at the verb ‘have’ which we will use to describe the relationships between family members.

The conversation you are going to hear includes many new words. Do not worry about understanding everything or even if you only understand an occasional word. Over the next few classes, we are going to learn to understand the whole conversation, step by step.

Conversation

Read and listen to the following conversation. Do you recognize any of the words used to describe family members?

Listen to the recording and read the script.

Catherine: Hi Emily

Emily: Hi Catherine. Do you have any brothers or sisters?

C: Yes, I have one sister.

E: Tell me about your sister.

C: My sister is a scientist. She is younger than me. She is short, blonde and kind-hearted.

E: Do you have any aunts or uncles?

C: Yes, my mother has one sister and my father has one sister. They are my aunts. I have two uncles. They are the husbands of my aunts.

E: Do you have any cousins?

C: Yes, I have three cousins. The oldest is the son of my mother’s sister. He is an English teacher in Japan. His sister is the second oldest. She lives in England and works in a clothes shop. The youngest is the daughter of my father’s sister. She is still at school.

E: Tell me about your grandparents.

C: My grandparents on my mother’s side are now dead. However, I still have my grandparents on my father’s side. My grandfather was a doctor, but he is now retired. My grandmother was a teacher.

E: How fascinating. It was great speaking with you today.

C: You too Emily, let’s catch up again soon.

E: Okay, bye

C: Bye


Quiz

How much of the conversation do you understand? Try and select which of the following options complete the sentences.

Catherine’s sister is a vet / a scientist / a teacher.

Catherine has one / three / five cousins.

Catherine has two / four / six uncles.

Answers are at the bottom of the page.

Analysis

Family members

We are going to identify the vocabulary for describing our family.

Emily: Do you have any brothers or sisters?

Catherine: Yes, I have one sister.

brother(s) = hermano (pero solo varones)

sister(s) = hermana

sibling(s) = hermano(s) (todo género)

As you can see, in English we have a different word for the non-gender specific plural. Instead of asking “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” Emily could ask “Do you have any siblings?”

Emily: Tell me about your grandparents.

mother / mum = madre

father / dad = padre

parent(s) = padre(s) (todo género)

grandfather(s) / grandpa(s) / grandad(s) = abuelo(s)

grandmother(s) / grandma(s) / gran(s) / granny(s) / nanna(s) = abuela(s)

grandparent(s) = abuelo(s) (todo género)

But what if your parents are separated and remarried? And what if they have more children?

step-mother = madrastra

step-father = padrastro

half-brother(s) = hermanastro

half-sister(s) = hermanastra

half-sibling = (todo género)

Pronouncing ‘brothers’

Many Spanish speakers have difficulty with pronouncing the word ‘brothers’ because of the th sound in the middle of the word.

Start by saying the word with a d instead of a th.

Bro-der

Now, repeat the word, but this time push your tongue further forward, beyond your teeth. Don’t be embarrassed.

Bro-ther

If you place your hand against your mouth can you feel the tip of your tongue touch your hand? If you practise the word in front of a mirror you should be able to see your tongue.

More family members

Emily: Do you have any cousins?

Catherine: Yes, I have three cousins.

Emily: Do you have any aunts or uncles?

Catherine: Yes, my mother has one sister and my father has one sister. They are my aunts. I have two uncles. They are the husbands of my aunts.

cousin = primo/a (todo género)

cousins = primos/as (todo género)

aunt = tia

uncle = tio

husband = esposo

wife = esposa

partner = esposo / esposa / novio / novia (todo género)

son(s) = hijo(s) (solo varones)

daughter(s) = hija(s)

child = niño / niña / hija / hijo (todo género)

children = niños / hijos (todo género)

The word ‘child’ can refer to someone who is young, however, it can also refer to a son or daughter. Note that the plural of ‘child’ is not ‘childs’ but ‘children’. For example, my mother can say, “I have two children.”

Warning: The most frequent mistakes in using this vocabulary occurs when native Spanish speakers use the vocabulary as a direct translation of the Spanish.

There is no single word in English that can refer to your parents’ siblings regardless of their gender. If you say ‘uncles’ you only mean men. If you say ‘aunts’ you only mean women.

Similarly, all sons are male and all daughters are female. All brothers are male and all sisters are female.

Any versus Many

any = algún / alguno / alguna

many = muchos / muchas

Because they sound very similar, sometimes my students get confused between ‘any’ and ‘many’. Compare these two examples:

Emily: Do you have any cousins?

Catherine: Yes, I have three cousins.

Emily: Do you have many cousins?

Catherine: No, I only have three cousins. (No, solo tengo tres primos.)

The verb ‘to have’

The verb ‘to have’ is similar to the verb ‘tener’ in Spanish, and, at the same time, ‘haber’.

Emily: Do you have any brothers or sisters?

Catherine: Yes, I have one sister.

Emily: Do you have any aunts or uncles?

Catherine: Yes, my mother has one sister and my father has one sister. They are my aunts. I have two uncles.

Look at the words highlighted in the text above. These are all examples of the verb ‘to have’ in the simple present tense.

PronounTo have
Ihave
Youhave
He / She / It has
Wehave
Theyhave
Simple Present Tense

Here is the equivalent verb table for the Spanish verb ‘tener’. Compare the two tables.

PronounTener
Yotengo
tienes
Él / Ella / Ustedtiene
Nosotrostenemos
Ustedestienen
Simple Present Tense

When we use the word ‘tenemos’, it is obvious that we are talking about more than one person and that the group of people includes the individual who is speaking. Therefore frequently using the word ‘nosotros’ is superfluous.

When we use the word ‘have’ it isn’t obvious how many people we are talking about. Therefore, it is essential to include the personal pronoun (I, you, we etc.) or the name of the person or group.

I don’t have

But what do we do if the answer is no?

The word ‘don’t’ is a contraction of ‘do not’. We use ‘don’t’ to make negative statements.

Emily: Do you have any brothers?

Catherine: No, I don’t have any brothers.

You place ‘don’t’ between the personal pronoun (in this example ‘I’) and the verb (in this example ‘have’). This makes the statement negative.

Tasks

Task 1

Practise using the verb ‘to have’. Choose the correct options from the drop-down boxes to complete the conversation.

    John: Do you any brothers or sisters?

    George: Yes, I three sisters and one brother, however, my father is separated from my mother. My father a new wife. They a daughter, so I also a half-sister. We a large family.


    Task 2

    Answer the following questions about yourself.

    For example:

    Do you have any sons? – Yes, I have two sons.

    Do you have any daughters? – No, I don’t have any daughters.

      Do you have any brothers?
      Do you have any sisters?
      Do you have any aunts?
      Do you have any uncles?
      Do you have any cousins?


      Task 3

      Complete the phrases below describing the relationship between members of your family.

      For example:

      The brother of my father is my uncle.

        The daughter of my aunt is my
        The son of my father is my
        The sister of my mother is my
        The father of my mother is my
        The mother of my mother is my


        Reflection

        In the conversation at the top of this page, there is a lot of vocabulary. We will cover more of this vocabulary in later lessons. So far, we have looked at some of the words used to describe members of the family and we have learnt how to use the verb ‘to have’ in the simple present tense.

        You might want to draw out a picture of your family tree and label it in English to practise the vocabulary that is relevant to your family.

        Quiz answers:

        Catherine’s sister is a scientist.

        Catherine has three cousins.

        Catherine has two uncles.