useful italian phrases

La Famiglia: Useful Words & Phrases for the Family in Italian

family members in Italian

Many beginning Italian students ask, “How do I talk about my family in Italian?” If you’re asking the same question, you’ve come to the right place!

Family plays a big role in the Italian culture, so you should certainly learn the words and phrases for describing yours.

As you continue to learn the Italian language and culture, you’ll start to understand the importance of la famiglia. And soon you’ll be asked to describe your family to others.

Review the helpful Italian phrases and words below, so you’ll be able to hold a conversation about your family in Italian!

How To Talk About the Family in Italian

First, check out this slideshow to learn the various terms for the different members of your family. Notice that the article changes depending on the gender of the noun.

Here are some additional words for the family in Italian that will come in handy:

  • il marito (husband)
  • la moglie (wife)
  • il fidanzato (fiancé)
  • la fidanzata (fiancée)
  • il cognato (brother-in-law)
  • la cognata (sister-in-law)
  • il suocero (father-in-law)
  • la suocera (mother-in-law)

Did you know that in Italian, i parenti means relatives, and not parents? This false cognate is often misused by Italian beginners. The correct word for parents is: i genitori. And a more casual way to refer to your parents is i miei.

Now that you know the words for family members in Italian, let’s go over how to discuss your family in conversation. A common question when learning about someone’s family is who’s the oldest and who’s the youngest.

Below are some useful Italian phrases to correctly answer this question:

  • maggiore or più grande (the oldest)
  • minore or più piccolo (the youngest)
  • di mezzo (the middle)

If you ever need to describe your marital status, you can use the following terms:

  • sposato/a (married)
  • nubile (single)
  • dicorziato/a (divorced)
  • separato/a (separated)
  • vedovo/a (widowed)

SEE ALSO: How to Learn the Italian Alphabet

Grammar Tips for Describing the Family in Italian

When having a conversation about your family, there are some important grammar tips you must keep in mind.

When referring to a single member of the family, don’t use the definite article. For instance, tua sorella is correct, and la tua sorella is incorrect. If there is more than one member, you should use the definite article as you would normally. For example, le tue sorelle.

This rule, however, becomes null if the single family member you are referring to is modified in some way (for example, with an adjective, a prefix, suffix, or if the possessive is loro). In these cases, use the definite article. Here are some examples:

  • il mio caro cugino (cugino is modified by the adjective caro)
  • la mia bisnonna (nonna is modified with the prefix –bis)
  • il mio fratellino (fratello is modified with the suffix -ino)
  • la loro sorella (sorella is used with the possessive loro)

In addition, when using terms such as mamma and papà, if you use the article (i.e. la mia mamma / il mio papa) it has a more affectionate meaning. If you use it without the article (mia mamma / mio papà) it simply expresses the relationship as your mother or father.

RELATED: 50 Interesting Facts About Italy

Practice Using Italian Words for Family Members

Now that you know several words for the family in Italian, you can practice by creating sentences using the vocabulary. See the example below to help get you started:

La mia famiglia è molto grande. Mia madre ha sette fratelli, e ho molti cugini. Non ho sorelle, ma ho due fratelli minori. I miei genitori sono sposati da 1979. Adesso ho anche due cognate. Non ho ancora nipoti.

This translates to: My family is very large. My mother has seven siblings, and I have lots of cousins. I don’t have sisters, but I have two younger brothers. My parents have been married since 1979. Now I also have two sister-in-laws. I still don’t have nephews or nieces.

With these Italian phrases and words in your vocabulary, you’ll be well-equipped to describe your family in Italian. If you need more help, try working with an Italian tutor to improve your conversational skills!

nadiaBPost Author:
 Nadia B.
Nadia B. teaches Italian in New York, NY. She graduated summa cum laude from New York University, with a double degree in Italian Language and Literature and Classical Music Performance. Learn more about Nadia here!

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