Describing your family and pets in German using 'haben'

Your family

To talk about who is in your family, use the verb haben (to have), for example ‘I have a brother’. To do this, you need to use the right indefinite article. The indefinite article is a or an. In German, einen is used for male family members and eine is used for female family members. For example:

  • Ich habe eine Mutter und einen Vater - I have a mother and a father.
  • Ich habe einen Bruder - I have a brother.
  • Ich habe zwei Mütter - I have two mothers.
  • Ich habe eine Mutter, einen Stiefvater, eine Schwester und einen Halbbruder - I have a mother, a step-father, a sister and a half-brother.

If you don’t have any brothers or sisters, you can say:

  • Ich habe keine Geschwister - I have no brothers and sisters.
  • Ich bin Einzelkind - I am an only child.
Meine Familie - my family

Can you say who is in your family using the vocabulary below?

GermanEnglish
Mutter / Müttermother / mothers
Vater / Väterfather / fathers
Mamamum
Papadad
Schwester / Schwesternsister / sisters
Bruder / Brüderbrother / brothers
Onkeluncle
Tanteaunt
Großvatergrandfather
Opagrandad
Großmuttergrandmother
Omagranny
Cousin / Cousinscousin (male) / cousins (male)
Cousine / Cousinen cousin (female) / cousins (female)
Stiefmutterstep-mother
Stiefvaterstep-father
Stiefschwesterstep-sister
Stiefbruderstep-brother
Halbschwesterhalf-sister
Halbbruderhalf-brother
keine Geschwister no brothers or sisters
Elternparents
Pflegemutterfoster mother
Pflegevaterfoster father

Describing your family

You can describe your family in more detail by saying their name, age and where they live. Use the verbs: heißen (to be called), sein (to be) and wohnen (to live).

When talking about a family member, conjugate the verb into the third person (er/sie/es - he/she/it). The verb will end in t. This is the present tense. Conjugate means changing the endings of a verb to match the person doing the action.

  • Mein Bruder heißt Paul - My brother is called Paul.
  • Mein Vater ist fünfundvierzig Jahre alt - My father is 45 years old.
  • Meine Mutter wohnt in Brighton - My mother lives in Brighton.

To talk about more than one family member, you need to use meine. For plural family members, most verbs end in -en. Don't forget that sein (to be) is an irregular verb: sie sind means they are.

  • Meine Eltern heißen Leanne und Carla - My parents are called Leanne and Carla.
  • Meine Schwestern wohnen in Birmingham - My sisters live in Birmingham.
  • Meine Brüder sind elf und sechzehn Jahre alt - My brothers are 11 and 16 years old.

Talking about family relationships

Ich komme gut mit ... aus is a phrase you can use to say you get on well with someone. You can change gut to nicht gut if you don’t get on with them! When using this phrase, you have to change mein to meinem and meine to meiner after mit (with).

  • Ich komme gut mit meinem Bruder aus - I get on well with my brother.
  • Ich komme gut mit meiner Mama aus - I get on well with my mum.
Ich komme nicht gut mit meiner Schwester aus, denn sie ist sehr laut.

Adding denn (because) allows you to give a reason for your opinion.

  • Ich komme nicht gut mit meinem Cousin aus, denn er ist nervig - I don’t get on well with my cousin because he is annoying.
  • Ich komme nicht gut mit meiner Schwester aus, denn sie ist sehr laut - I don’t get on well with my sister because she is very loud.

Can you write your own sentences using the vocabulary in the table below?

GermanEnglish
ich komme gut mit ... ausI get on well with ...
ich komme nicht gut mit ... ausI don't get on well with ...
lustigfunny
nettnice
sympathischsympathetic
großzügiggenerous
ehrlichhonest
nervigannoying
lautloud

Your pets

Pets are often part of the family, so you might want to talk about them too! Like with family members, you need to pay attention to the gender of the noun and check if it is masculine, feminine or neuter. It’s not as simple as if your pet cat is male or female. To say a after ich habe you will need einen (masculine), eine (feminine) or ein (neuter). For example:

  • Ich habe einen Hund - I have a dog.
  • Ich habe eine Katze - I have a cat.
  • Sie hat ein Kaninchen - She has a rabbit.
  • Ich habe keine Haustiere - I have no pets.

Take a look at this slideshow to find more pets in German!

A photo of a dog. It is a young, grey cocker spaniel.

der Hund - the dog

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Plural pets

But what if you have more than one pet? You can’t simply add an s on the end like in English. Plurals in German have different endings depending on the noun. Masculine and neuter nouns often add an e and feminine nouns often add an n.

  • Ich habe zwei Hunde - I have two dogs.
  • Ich habe drei Pferde - I have three horses.
  • Er hat vier Katzen - He has four cats.
  • Sie hat acht Spinnen - She has eight spiders.

There are some exceptions to this rule:

  • Nouns that end in -chen stay the same. They are often neuter.
    • Ich habe zwei Kaninchen - I have two rabbits.
    • Ich habe sieben Meerschweinchen - I have seven guinea pigs.
  • Hamster stays the same regardless of how many you have:
    • Ich habe sechs Hamster - I have six hamsters.
  • Some nouns add an umlaut (two dots) over the vowel and an e at the end:
    • Ich habe vier Mäuse - I have four mice.

Here are some plural pets:

GermanEnglish
Hundedogs
Katzencats
Kaninchenrabbits
Hamsterhamster(s)
Mäusemice
Pferdehorses
Meerschweinchenguinea pigs
Spinnenspiders

Quiz

Find out how much you know about family and pets in German in this short quiz!

Where next?

Discover more from around Bitesize.

The present tense: How to talk about what you do in German
Describing people in German using 'haben' and 'sein'
KS3 German