“¡Madre mía!” Talking about family members in Spanish

“¡Madre mía!” Talking about family members in Spanish

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Updated October 5, 2023

In many ways, talking about your family in Spanish is simpler than in English. For example, Spanish uses the same word for “niece” and “nephew”: sobrino/a

Notice something about the above example? That’s right — Spanish words for family members may change based on gender, so be careful to match the gender with the person in question. For a gender-neutral approach, the Federación Argentina LGBT recommends using “e,” as in hermane (sibling) or sobrine (sibling’s child).

This guide’s list of family members in Spanish covers everyone from nuclear family members to extended relatives. It also includes some key phrases to help you talk about them.

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Names of family members in Spanish

Let’s start with the nuclear family. Here’s a list of Spanish words for the family members you’re likely to talk about regularly:

  • madre/mamá – mother/mom
  • madrastra – stepmother
  • madre soltera – single mother
  • padre/papá – father/dad
  • padrastro – stepfather
  • padre soltero – single father
  • padres – parents
  • hermano/hermana – brother/sister
  • hijo/hija – son/daughter
  • niño/niña – child (masculine/feminine)
  • esposo/esposa – spouse (husband/wife)
  • pareja – couple (this noun is always feminine regardless of the person’s gender; it is conveniently inclusive for LGBTQIA+ couples)
  • soltero/soltera – single person
  • bebé – baby
  • hijo único/hija única – only child (son/daughter)
  • viuda/viudo – widow/widower
  • perro – dog
  • cachorro – puppy
  • gato – cat

Names of extended family members

In Spanish, family members can include an extended range of relations. Here are their titles:

  • parientes/familiares – relatives
  • los familiares de mi padre/madre – family members of my father/mother
  • abuelo/abuela – grandfather/grandmother
  • tía/tío – aunt/uncle
  • primo/prima – cousin
  • nieto/nieta – grandson/granddaughter
  • sobrino/sobrina – nephew/niece
  • yerno – son-in-law
  • nuera – daughter-in-law
  • cuñado/cuñada – brother-in-law/sister-in-law
  • suegros – parents-in-law/in-laws
  • familia elegida – chosen family

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Phrases to talk about family members in Spanish

There are a number of key verbs and phrases we can use to talk about family. Here are some examples:

“Caerse” – to like or to have an impression of

  • ¿Te cae bien tu hermano? – Do you like your brother?
  • Me cae bien mi hermano. – I like my brother.
  • No me cae bien mi tío Hernan. – I don’t like my uncle Hernan.
  • Me caen mal mis suegros. – I don’t like my in-laws.
  • Me caen fatal los primos estirados. – I hate my stuck-up cousins.

“Llevarse” – to get along with

  • ¿Te llevas bien con tus primos? – Do you get along with your cousins?
  • Me llevo bien con mis primos. – I get along with my cousins.
  • No nos llevamos bien con mi padrastro. – We don’t get along with my stepdad.

“Salir” – to go out with (to an event or social gathering) or to date

  • ¿Te gusta salir con tus primos? – Do you like to go out with your cousins?
  • Salgo con mis primos los fines de semana. – I go out with my cousins on the weekends.
  • Mi hermana está saliendo con un chavo bajito. – My sister is dating a short guy.

“Conocer” – to know someone

  • Nunca conocí a mi abuelo. – I never knew/met my grandfather.
  • Conozco bien los familiares de mi mamá, pero no mucho los de mi papá. – I know my mom’s family well, but not so much my dad’s side.

“Casarse” – to marry

  • Mi papá se casó de nuevo el año pasado. – My dad remarried last year.
  • Nunca quiero casarme con nadie. – I never want to marry anyone.

Talk about your family members in Spanish (even the family dog!)

Getting to know someone means asking about their family and talking about yours. With this vocabulary, you now have everything you need to talk about family members ranging from your chosen family to your perrhijos and gathijos (dog and cat children). Think about the family in your life and practice making sentences to describe them and your relationship with them!

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Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Alison Maciejewski Cortez is Chilean-American, born and raised in California. She studied abroad in Spain, has lived in multiple countries, and now calls Mexico home. She believes that learning how to order a beer in a new language reveals a lot about local culture. Alison speaks English, Spanish, and Thai fluently and studies Turkish. Her consulting business takes her around the world and she is excited to share language tips as part of the Lingoda team. Follow her culinary and cultural experiences on Twitter.

Alison Maciejewski Cortez
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