The family is very important in South American culture, and many families get together every weekend for a long, chilled-out barbecue. Asking someone about their family is a good way to get to know someone and start a conversation with a local.

la madre / el padre / los padres = mother / father / parents

la mamá / el papá / los papás = mum / dad / parents

la hija / el hijo / los hijos = daughter / son / children

la hermana / el hermano = sister / brother

la abuela / el abuelo / los abuelos = grandmother / grandfather / grandparents

la nieta / el nieto / los nietos = granddaughter / grandson / grandchildren

la tía / el tío / los tíos = aunt / uncle / aunts and uncles

la sobrina / el sobrino / los sobrinos = niece / nephew / nieces and nephews

la prima / el primo / los primos = cousin / cousins

la cuñada / el cuñado = sister-in-law / brother-in-law

la suegra / el suegro = mother-in-law / father-in-law

la yerna / el yerno = daughter-in-law / son-in-law

Note that the masculine form and the feminine form are very similar – usually just the final letter is different – but in the plural, you use the masculine (even if it includes female family members). For example mi tío is my uncle, but if I talk about mis tíos I probably mean my aunt(s) and uncle(s).

Spanish speakers learning English will often start off asking questions like, “Do you have any brothers?” instead of “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

Here the formal usted forms are in purple letters and the informal vos forms are in green.

¿Tenés hermanos? = Do you have brothers or sisters?

¿Son más grandes que vos o más chicos? = Are they older or younger than you?

¿Usted tiene hijos / nietos? = Do you have children / grandchildren?

Tengo un hermano menor y una hermana mayor. = I have a younger brother and an older sister.

¿Cuántos años tiene tu / su sobrino / sobrina? = How old is your nephew / niece?

¿Sos tío / tía? = Are you an uncle / aunt? (It’s more common to form the question like this than to ask, Have you got any nieces or nephews?)

¿Usted es abuelo / abuela? = Are you a grandfather / grandmother?

¿Vivís con tu familia? / ¿Usted vive con su familia? = Do you live with your family?

Exercise: Identify whether the following questions use the formal usted form or the informal vos form. Then, whichever they are, rewrite them using the other pronoun. This first one has been done for you.

1.  ¿Tenés hermanos?   VOS   –>  ¿Usted tiene hermanos?

2.  ¿Usted es abuela?

3.  ¿Vive con sus hijos?

4.  ¿Cuántos primos tenés?

5.  ¿Cuántos hermanos tiene tu mamá?

6.  ¿Cuántos años tiene su nieto?

7.  ¿Tenés primos?

8.  ¿Cuántos tíos tiene usted?

9.  ¿Usted tiene cuñados?

10.  ¿Cuántos años tiene tu hermana?

Any questions? If you’re not sure about the content of today’s class or have something to add, leave us a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Your questions and comments will help other students too. Our Spanish immersion programs at La Herradura in Uruguay and Spain teach you an international form of Spanish, but the teachers are all native speakers and will offer guidance on local expressions and words.

Coming up next… Class 17: Love | El amor


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