How to talk about family in German

How to talk about family in German

by Anne Walther

Updated February 16, 2023

Making small talk is essential for learning a new language and integrating into a new country. And there’s no better way to get to know others and understand a country’s culture than by talking about family. Talking about your family in German will not only help you practice your language skills. It will also teach you about an important aspect of German culture

From immediate relatives to step siblings and everything in between, there are many German words to describe different familial relations. But don’t worry — we have you covered! With the lists below, you can get a head start on learning and memorizing the most important German vocabulary about family.

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Immediate family

Immediate family members include the people you’re immediately related to — for example, your parents and siblings. Unlike in some other cultures, Germans typically only live together with their immediate family, rather than with a large group of extended family members.

die Familiethe family
der Vater (formal)the father
die Mutter (formal)the mother
der Papa (informal)the dad
die Mama (informal)the mom
das Kindthe child
die Tochterthe daughter
der Sohnthe son
die Elternthe parents
die Geschwisterthe siblings
die Schwesterthe sister
der Bruderthe brother
das Einzelkindthe only child
die Ehefrauthe wife
der Ehemannthe husband

Extended family

Of course, your family can also include extended family, such as your grandparents or in-laws. German naturally has words for these relations, as well. Notice that, as with parents, there are both formal and informal names for grandparents. 

die Großmutter (formal)the grandmother
der Großvater (formal)the grandfather
die Oma (informal)the grandma
der Opa (informal)the grandpa
die Großelternthe grandparents
die Cousinethe female cousin
der Cousinthe male cousin
der Onkelthe uncle
die Tantethe aunt
die Nichtethe niece
der Neffethe nephew
die Urgroßmutter (formal)the great-grandmother
der Urgroßvater (formal)the great-grandfather
die Uroma (informal)the great-grandma
der Uropa (informal)the great-grandpa
die Urgroßelternthe great-grandparents
das Enkelkindthe grandchild
die Enkelinthe granddaughter
der Enkelthe grandson
der Schwagerthe brother-in-law
die Schwägerinthe sister-in-law
Die Schwiegerelternthe parents-in-law
Die Schwiegermutterthe mother-in-law
Der Schwiegervaterthe father-in-law

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Other family or household members

The definition of “family” continues to expand, in Germany as well as in other cultures. With this in mind, there may be other people who are considered family in German, such as step-siblings or life partners. 

To help with your memorization, notice that many of these words share a similar prefix. Learning these common prefixes can come in handy whether you’re describing a life partner (prefix: Lebens-) or a step relation (prefix: Stief-). 

der Partnerthe partner
der Lebensgefährtethe male life partner
die Lebensgefährtinthe female life partner
der Stiefvaterthe stepfather
die Stiefmutterthe stepmother
die Stiefelternthe stepparents
das Stiefkindthe stepchild
die Stieftochterthe stepdaughter
der Stiefsohnthe stepson
der Stiefbruderthe stepbrother
die Stiefschwesterthe stepsister
die Patchworkfamiliethe blended family

Marital status

Especially when applying for a visa, changing tax classes or signing up for social benefits, you may need to specify your marital status. You may also need to describe which members of your family live in your household. Here’s a list of some key nouns and adjectives to get you started. 

der Familienstandthe marital status
der/die Alleinerziehendethe single parent

Other words to talk about family

Now that you can name all the family members and describe their various relations, it may help to learn some typical questions to ask about the family. The following questions and answers can get you a long way in making conversation.

Hast du Geschwister?Do you have siblings? 
Wie alt sind deine Eltern?How old are your parents?
Hast du Cousins?Do you have cousins?
Wie groß ist deine Familie?How big is your family?
Ich habe zwei Geschwister: einen Bruder und eine Schwester.I have two siblings: a brother and a sister.
Ich bin das jüngste/älteste Kind.I am the youngest/oldest child.

In times of test, family is best

When you’re moving or even just traveling abroad, you may find yourself missing your family a lot. In moments like these, sharing memories about your loved ones with new friends can help you cope. It doesn’t hurt that it also helps with practicing German. Whether you’re talking about immediate or extended family, you’ll have plenty to speak about with these vocabulary lists. Study up, and you’ll be fluent in German in no time!

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Anne is a German freelance writer and communication consultant. In addition to her job, she is the founder and coach of the Dutch non-for-profit organization CLUB Coaching. Due to her work, she resides in both Germany and the Netherlands. Whenever her time is not occupied with communication in all its forms, she spends time with her six pets, gardening or being creative with fashion and design. You can follow her on LinkedIn.

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