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How to Introduce Your Family in Chinese

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Almost everyone holds a special place in their heart for families. A family is those you’re bound with from birth, the ones who will always be there for you unconditionally. When we first meet someone, we like to be familiar with their family background. Knowing this provides valuable information on that person’s upbringing, which could shape their personality dramatically. Thus, it’s important to learn how to talk about your family in Chinese.

In China, family has great importance. 孝顺 (xiào shùn), which means being responsible and obedient to parents, is one of the best qualities a person can have. While reading this article, keep in mind that the Chinese view of parent-child relationships differs in some ways from that of Western countries.

Now let’s get right into today’s adventure!

Table of Contents

  1. Family Perceptions in China
  2. Family Member Terms and Other Basics
  3. Terms for Relatives
  4. Family Member Terms as a Married Person
  5. Endearment Terms
  6. Bonus – Interesting Expressions about Family Members
  7. Conclusion: How ChineseClass101 Can Help You Master Family Terms

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1. Family Perceptions in China

Parents Phrases

The family institution in China is incredibly strong. China highly values family bonds, particularly parent-child relationships. When it comes to family in the Chinese culture, there are even traditions that say children should never travel far, and should always stay with their parents.

Even now, many men still live with their parents even after their marriage. In this case, the woman will have to move to the man’s house and live with his parents. This sometimes creates an unpleasant relationship between the wife and her mother-in-law, which is a situation you can see used as a stereotype in a wide variety of Chinese shows.

There are many different ways to name family members depending on your relationship to them. Age difference is the main factor in determining what to call a family member, since Chinese people heavily emphasize that youngsters should respect their elders.

One thing to keep in mind: Unlike in Western culture, it’s not respectful to directly call elders by their names. This matter will be introduced more thoroughly later in this article.

2. Family Member Terms and Other Basics

Family Words

Here are some Chinese words for family members to expand your family in Chinese vocabulary! With just these basic words and phrases, you have a great place to start a simple conversation about family.

  • In Chinese: 家人
    Pinyin: jiā rén
    In English: family

    In Chinese: 我的家庭很幸福。
    Pinyin: Wǒ de jiā tíng hěn xìng fú.
    In English: I have a happy family.

    In Chinese: 我是在单亲家庭中长大的。
    Pinyin: Wǒ shì zài dān qīn jiā tíng zhōng zhǎng dà de.
    In English: I grew up in a single-parent family.

  • In Chinese: 母亲
    Pinyin: mǔ qīn
    In English: mother
  • In Chinese: 父亲
    Pinyin: fù qīn
    In English: father
  • In Chinese: 妈妈
    Pinyin: mā ma
    In English: mom
  • In Chinese: 爸爸
    Pinyin: bà ba
    In English: dad
  • In Chinese: 姐姐 / 妹妹
    Pinyin: jiě jie / mèi mei
    In English: (older) sister / (younger) sister

    In Chinese: 我有个[姐姐].
    Pinyin: Wǒ yǒu gè [jiě jie].
    In English: I have a(n) [older sister].

  • In Chinese: 哥哥/弟弟
    Pinyin: gē ge /dì di
    In English: (older) brother / (younger) brother
  • In Chinese: 兄弟姐妹
    Pinyin: xiōng dì jiě mèi
    In English: sibling

Fun fact: The interesting thing about siblings in Chinese is that older and younger siblings have different terms, whereas English does not.

  • In Chinese: 姥爷 / 爷爷 / 祖父
    Pinyin: lǎo yé / yé ye / zǔ fù
    In English: (mother’s side) grandfather / (father’s side) grandfather / grandfather
  • In Chinese: 姥姥 / 奶奶 / 祖母
    Pinyin: lǎo lao / nǎi nai / zǔ mǔ
    In English: (mother’s side) grandmother / (father’s side) grandmother / grandmother
  • In Chinese: 父母 / 家长
    Pinyin: fù mǔ / jiā zhǎng
    In English: parents

Fun fact: The literal meaning of 家长 is the family’s leader.

  • In Chinese: 祖父母
    Pinyin: zǔ fù mǔ
    In English: grandparents
  • In Chinese: 曾祖母
    Pinyin: zēng zǔ mǔ
    In English: great grandmother
  • In Chinese: 曾祖父
    Pinyin: zēng zǔ fù
    In English: great grandfather

3. Terms for Relatives

Family in Winter Clothes Outside
Who can say having a big family isn’t fun?

Now, let’s work our way around the Chinese family tree, so that you’ll never struggle to find the right word for a family member!

  • In Chinese: 亲戚/亲属
    Pinyin: qīn qi / qīn shǔ
    In English: relative

Fun fact: There’s a fun Chinese term called 走亲戚 (zǒu qīn qi), which literally means “walk through relatives.” This is a tradition that Chinese people normally have during Chinese New Year, which is also known as the Spring Festival. It’s a holiday where families spend time together and catch up, just like Christmas in Western cultures. If some families can’t make the reunion, you’ll need to 走亲戚, to visit them at their place and spend some quality time. This shows that the Chinese extended family is just as important as the Chinese immediate family.

  • In Chinese: 叔叔
    Pinyin: shū shu
    In English: uncle
  • In Chinese: 阿姨
    Pinyin: ā yí
    In English: aunt

Fun fact: In English, youngsters can usually call their elders who have no relations Mr. or Ms. and such, and sometimes if an elder is close enough, they can even directly call them by their names. This is quite different in China.

The young generation have to call adults who are older a certain term depending on the age difference. Usually, you can call people who are ten to twenty years older “aunt” (阿姨) or “uncle” (叔叔). For people who are at a similar age as your grandparents, you’re required to call them “grandmother” (奶奶) or “grandfather” (爷爷).

  • In Chinese: 堂兄弟姐妹/表兄弟姐妹
    Pinyin: táng xiōng dì jiě mèi /biǎo xiōng dì jiě mèi
    In English: cousin

Fun fact: Since “cousin” in Chinese is a relatively long word, Chinese people usually don’t use the word “cousin.” Instead, they’ll use the terms that can show the direct relation. There are eight different terms under the category “cousin,” including: 堂兄 (táng xiōng) [male, father’s side, older], 堂弟 (táng dì) [male, father’s side, younger], 堂姐 (táng jiě) [female, father’s side, older], 堂妹 (táng mèi) [female, father’s side, younger], 表兄 (biǎo xiōng) [male, mother’s side, older], 表弟 (biǎo dì) [male, mother’s side, younger], 表姐 (biǎo jiě) [female, mother’s side, older], 表妹 (biǎo mèi) [female, mother’s side, younger].

  • In Chinese: 外甥女 / 侄女
    Pinyin: wài shēng nǚ / zhí nǚ
    In English: niece
  • In Chinese: 侄子 / 外甥
    Pinyin: zhí zi / wài shēng
    In English: nephew

4. Family Member Terms as a Married Person

Once you’ve married in Chinese culture, you’ve gained several new Chinese family members. Here’s what to call them all!

  • In Chinese: 妻子
    Pinyin: qī zǐ
    In English: wife
  • In Chinese: 丈夫 / 先生
    Pinyin: zhàng fū / xiān shēng
    In English: husband

Family Smiling
I believe we all want a happy family!

  • In Chinese: 女儿
    Pinyin: nǚ ér
    In English: daughter
  • In Chinese: 儿子
    Pinyin: ér zi
    In English: son
  • In Chinese: 姐夫 / 妹夫
    Pinyin: jiě fū / mèi fū
    In English: brother-in-law
  • In Chinese: 嫂子 / 弟妹
    Pinyin: sǎo zi / dì mèi
    In English: (older brother’s side) sister-in-law / (younger brother’s side) sister-in-law
  • In Chinese: 婆婆 / 岳母
    Pinyin: pó po / yuè mǔ
    In English: mother-in-law (husband’s mother) / mother-in-law (wife’s mother)
  • In Chinese: 公公 / 岳父
    Pinyin: gōng gong / yuè fù
    In English: father-in-law (husband’s father) / father-in-law (wife’s father)

Fun fact: In Chinese culture, if you’re on good terms with your father-in-law and mother-in-law, and you feel comfortable, it will be good to call them “mom” or “dad,” just like your wife/husband does. This shows that you see them as your own mother or father. However, in many cases, it can be difficult to get along with your father-in-law or mother-in-law.

5. Endearment Terms

Family Walking by a Lake
Let’s use more endearment terms to call the ones you love!

  • In Chinese: 爹地 / 爸爸 / 老爸
    Pinyin: diē dì / bà ba / lǎo bà
    In English: daddy
  • In Chinese: 妈咪 / 妈妈 / 老妈
    Pinyin: mā mī / mā ma / lǎo mā
    In English: mommy
  • In Chinese: 老哥 / 老弟
    Pinyin: lǎo gē / lǎo dì
    In English: (older) brother / (younger) brother
  • In Chinese: 老姐 / 老妹
    Pinyin: lǎo jiě / lǎo mèi
    In English: (older) sister / (younger) sister
  • In Chinese: 老婆 / 媳妇
    Pinyin: lǎo pó / xí fù
    In English: wife
  • In Chinese: 老公
    Pinyin: lǎo gōng
    In English: husband

Elderly Person Lying in Bed

Fun fact: 老 means “old” in Chinese, which is a very common thing to call someone who is close to you in Chinese. If you notice, lots of the nicknames mentioned above begin with a 老. In this case, 婆 and 公 each means “old women” and “old men.” By calling your other half this, it shows your commitment that you want to grow old with each other.

  • In Chinese: 亲爱的
    Pinyin: qīn ài de
    In English: dear
  • In Chinese: 宝贝
    Pinyin: bǎo bèi
    In English: baby
  • In Chinese: 闺女
    Pinyin: guī nǚ
    In English: daughter

6. Bonus – Interesting Expressions about Family Members

Family Quotes

  • In Chinese: 虎毒不食子。
    Pinyin: Hǔ dú bú shí zǐ.
    In English: Even a vicious tiger won’t eat its own son.
    Actual meaning: Parents will always treat their own children kindly, no matter how evil their nature is.
  • In Chinese: 有其父必有其子。
    Pinyin: Yǒu qí fù bì yǒu qí zǐ.
    In English: Like father, like son.
    Actual meaning: A son’s character is very likely to resemble his father’s.
  • In Chinese: 不听老人言,吃亏在眼前。
    Pinyin: Bù tīng lǎo rén yán, chī kuī zài yǎn qián.
    In English: If you don’t listen to elders’ advice, you will learn your lesson.

7. Conclusion: How ChineseClass101 Can Help You Master Family Terms

I hope you’re now more fascinated with the unique Chinese culture after reading this article about Chinese family. Continue to binge on learning the most native and entertaining Chinese lessons at ChineseClass101.com; here, Chinese is no longer an excruciating language that’s hard to master. It’s a paradise where you can enjoy yourself even while studying!

Before you go, let us know in the comments how confident you feel naming your family members in Chinese now! And tell us common sayings or idioms about family in your own language while you’re at it! 😉 We look forward to hearing from you!

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Dear Chinese Students,

Today we’re pleased to announce the launch of ChineseClass101.com. This is a joint project between Popup Chinese and the folks at Innovative Language Learning.

If you’re familiar with the Innovative Language approach to teaching, you’ll know the strength of their materials has always been tight, step-by-step progressive lessons for beginners. At Popup Chinese, we’ve historically geared our materials towards more advanced students, so when we had the chance to cooperate with the Innovative team and work together to build something that could take advantage of the powerful system they’ve already built we leapt at the chance, and began work designing a focused and stepwise program for Mandarin instruction.

Although a few hints leaked out (*ahem*), for the past few months we’ve worked somewhat stealthily to build the best team possible for the task. You’ll find our progressive beginner lessons hosted by none other than the famous Frank Fradella. Other big names on our roster are Amber Scorah and of course everyone on our existing team like Echo Yao and Brendan O’Kane. This is a great team and I can say with confidence I’ve never worked with a stronger one. With more than 100 lessons on the new site, our content is off to a good start too. As Frank said once after a marathon recording session, “our first twenty lessons here teach more than I learned in a whole year studying elsewhere.”

We think this is a great step forward and look forward to hearing your feedback and thoughts as well. It is definitely a major step forward for Chinese language education online. There’s never been a better time to learn Chinese, or a better way to learn it online. Regardless of whether you’re an advanced independent learner or a total newbie, we hope you’ll enjoy the work we’ll be doing both here and at ChineseClass101. Thanks for your support, and 加油 everyone!

Best from Beijing,

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Best from New York,

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