How to Talk About Your Family in English

Talking about your family should be one of the easiest things to do in English.

These people are your family, so you should know them very well. Talking about your family for over five minutes should be no problem for you.

But many students stumble over this topic and just don’t know what to say.

In this guide, I have mapped out several things you can talk about — from describing who they are and what they look like to the activities you like to do together to future plans and stories.

Just follow all the steps below and you will find that you can talk about your family for several minutes.

 

The Basics

How many people in your family? And who are they?

When you first start introducing your family, you just need to say some basic simple things about them.

How many people in your family?

How many people are there in your family? And who are these people?

The listener needs to get an overall general picture of who your family is before you go into any details.

Let’s say you come from a family of four peoplemum, dad, older sister and you. You could say:

There are four people in my family — me, my mum and dad, and my older sister.

Now we have a very clear general picture of your family and who they are.

Other variations of a basic introduction of your family could be:

I come from a small family — there are just three of us. Me, my mother and father.

My family is very big. There are seven of us. Me, my mum and dad, my three brothers and our little sister.

Sometimes people might say nuclear family to describe the size of their family. This is used to describe a family of four people — two parents and two children.

I come from a nuclear family — my mum and dad, me and my big brother.

Nuclear Family — while we used this term in the past, today it is a little antiquated. But you can still use it.

Some families may just have one parent. How to talk about this?

In my family, it’s just me and my mum. I don’t have any brothers or sisters.

There’s just me and my dad in my family. No brothers, no sisters.

And some families have two dads or two mums.

In my family, there are three people — me and my two dads.

One term I have heard used in IELTS tests is ‘family members’. For example;

I have four family members.

 

Please do not use this phrase!

It sounds very strange in English.

Your family are the people closest and dearest to you — they are not members.

We only have members of a club or a society.

 

Where Do All Your Family Live?

To create a bigger picture in your introduction, you should talk about where your family live.

Which city? In a house? In an apartment?

Where do you and your family live?

Let’s look at some options.

We all live in a small city in Thailand. We live in a house — it’s a small house but big enough for all the four of us.

I live with my family in Beijing. We live in an apartment. There are only three of us, so there is plenty of room for us.

Other than the city and country where you live, and the type of home you live in, you don’t need to say much more than this.

But maybe one person in your family does not live with you. How to talk about this?

We all live in a house in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur. But my sister doesn’t live with us. She is at college in Canada, so she lives there. I think she lives in a student dormitory, but I’m not sure.

Me and my family live in an apartment in Tokyo. My older brother is married though and has his own family now. They live in their own apartment — it’s not too far from us.

 

Who Are All The People In Your Family?

This is where you provide a little detail about each person in your family. You can say their name and what they do — job or student.

At this stage, that is all you need to talk about.

Who are they people in your family?

Let’s take a look at some things to say:

Well, there’s my dad — he works for a construction company. I think he’s a manager of some kind. And my mum — she does some work at home, writing articles.

And my sister, Chloe, she’s at university — she’s studying marketing in Australia.

And then me. I’m still at school.

So, my dad — he’s a teacher — he teaches computer stuff there. And my mum works in a kindergarten. My older brother, Sam, is working — but I can’t remember what he does. My younger brother, Luke, is in middle school, and I am in high school.

Usually, when we are talking about our parents in English, we don’t give their names. We know their names, but we don’t use them — and we don’t tell other people their names unless they ask.

But we do tell other people the names of our brothers and sisters.

 

What Do They Look Like? What Kind Of People Are They?

As you are describing all your family, you just need to give a brief description of each person.

In terms of a brief description, you can just talk about their height, their body shape, and some other general features like hair colour and distinguishing features. If you were talking about each person for any length of time, then you could go into more detail — but for the sake of your family, just keep things simple.

Can you describe the people in your family?

The same applies to their personality — no need to give too much detail. A general overview is enough.

Let’s look at some ideas…

My dad is pretty tall and thin. His hair is dark brown, but he is losing it now, so he has very little hair. He’s kind of quiet most of the time.

My mum is short — actually much shorter than my dad — and she has a lot of energy. She is always active and doing things. She’s funny too — she has a great sense of humour.

Then there’s my big sister — she’s beautiful and has long hair and green eyes. But she is always angry these days — and not just with me, with everyone. We just stay out of her way.

My dad is a little bit fat, and he wears glasses. He is pretty strict with me and my brother, especially about studying. If he catches us playing computer games when we should be doing our homework, he will lose his temper.

My mum is more easy-going. She thinks studying is important, but she lets us do things we like to do too. She used to have black hair, but it’s gone a little grey in the last few years. She is always singing around the house.

My dad always seems busy — he works a lot. He is about the same height as me, but he is fat. He doesn’t have time for sport. My mum is slim though — she goes running every morning, and she only eats healthy food. Unlike my dad.

My little sister is very cute. She is always playing tricks on me and likes to joke around. She has long black hair and a cheeky smile.

In this part, all you need to do is give a brief description of what they look like and an idea about their personality.

Check my article on describing people – How to Describe Someone’s Physical Appearance in English.

 

What Do You Like To To Together?

Most families enjoy doing some activities together. Even if it is just the simple act of eating together — there are some things that families always do together.

What do you do with your family?

Are there some things you only do with certain people in your family?

What do you and your family like to do together?

These are some ideas for you to look at:

My mum always insists that the family sits together and has Sunday lunch together. It is very important to her. We have a big lunch and it is a good time to talk together and share things about our lives.

We always go on holiday every year together. My dad loves to plan this big holiday — he makes me and my sister join him at the dinner table and we go over travel destinations.

Then about one week before we go, we start preparing what to take. It’s always a really great time, and I look forward to it every year.

Me, my brother and my dad like to go fishing together. To be honest, my dad really enjoys fishing — me and my brother just like to go and look around by the river and the boats.

Think about the things you like to do with your family — or some of your family — and then talk about that.

Maybe you have an interesting story to tell from when you did something with your family.

 

Who Are Your Extended Family?

Your extended family are people outside of your immediate family. Usually, we mean people like grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.

Who are your extended family?

You can introduce these people in the following ways:

I only have my grandfather on my mum’s side and my grandmother on my dad’s side who is still around. The others have passed away.

On my dad’s/mum’s side — this means the relatives that come from your father’s family or mother’s family.

Still around — this is a polite and more sensitive way to say still alive. In English, we prefer to use very sensitive words and expressions when talking about death.

Passed away — this is a more acceptable way of saying they have died.

Be careful when talking about the subject of death in English.

 

People often talk about how many cousins they have.

I have a lot of cousins — I think around thirty or more. If we have a big family get together, the house is very crowded.

I have three cousins. One of them I see all the time, we are like sisters. But the others live far away, so I don’t see them very often.

And we might talk about aunts or uncles that we have.

When I was very young, I went to see a football game with my uncle and cousins. My uncle is a lifelong fan of Arsenal football club.

One of my aunts likes to read the same kind of books I like. So I like to talk to her about books she has read to get some ideas of other things to read.

NOTE

In English, we can often say one word to refer to many of our relatives.

These words include:

  • Grandfather
  • Grandmother
  • Aunt
  • Uncle
  • Cousin
  • Niece
  • Nephew

I know that in many other languages — particularly Asian languages — there are different words for each person in the family.

This is not the same in English.

 

What Do You Like About Your Family?

And what do you not like?

They are our family — of course, there are many things we like about them. And there are many things we don’t like about them too.

What do you like about your family? And what do you dislike about them?

You can talk about these when introducing your family.

My dad has got a really great sense of humour — he says really funny things at times. But he has this annoying habit of whistling around the house. It drives all of us insane, but he cannot stop doing it.

My sister is really good at maths. If I ever have trouble with my maths homework, I know I can rely on my sister to help me. She thinks maths is easy. But one thing that drives me mad about her is her music. She plays loud rock music from her room. It sounds terrible!

If you say one or two things you like about someone from your family followed by one thing you dislike about the same person, it will make your English sound more rounded and fluent.

 

Future Plans For Your Family

None of us can tell what the future will bring.

But try to imagine what the future could be for your family. Maybe there are already some plans in store — your sister planning to go abroad to study or your older brother getting married.

You could also talk about your family’s hopes and dreams.

My sister is going to Australia next year. She will start college and study there. She is very excited about it.

My brother is planning his wedding right now. He will marry his girlfriend in a big ceremony. All of my cousins, aunts and uncles will be there. My dad is really worried about how much it will cost!

My mum hopes I will do well in my high school tests. Then she wants me to go to university. She said she wants me to be a doctor — but I would like to be a writer.

 

Tell Stories About Your Family

One of the best things you can do when talking about your family is to tell a story about them.

This can really help to describe your family in a great way.

Tell a story about your family

All you have to do is tell the story in the right chronological order and try to make it sound interesting.

When me and my brother were little kids, dad used to take us to the forest near where we lived. There was a boating pond there, and we used to run around exploring things and looking for frogspawn.

As we ran around, my dad used to bury coins in the bank of the pond. And when me and my brother got back from running around, he would tell us that pirates buried their treasure beside the pond.

This would be impossible! But we never thought about this…

So we dug the banks of the pond looking for treasure and we found the coins my dad buried there.

We thought we had found gold and silver!

The story can be funny, sad, exciting. It can be about a dangerous incident or something that made you feel very happy.

Think about a story about your family — you should have many stories to tell.

 

Conclusion

I hope I have given you some things to think about when introducing your family.

You should find there are many things to talk about — they are your family after all.

Just go through each section above and try to think of ways to talk about your family using the same exercise. If you follow all the above patterns clearly, you could probably talk about your family for over ten minutes!

And please — let me know in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “How to Talk About Your Family in English”

  1. In fact talking about the family is one of the most popular topics in many cultures where everything revolves around the family. I like the way the article starts from the concrete and works into the abstract. That is always a good way to approach any topic. Start with the physical description and weave up to telling stories about the person.

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