Mandarin: Talking about family

Family (listen 家庭 Jiā tíng) has always been very important in Chinese culture.

During the Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival, Chinese people make every effort to travel home and reunite with their family.

Parents in Mandarin

The words for your parents in Mandarin are quite simple:

  • listen 爸爸 bà ba - father

  • listen 妈妈 mā ma - mother

  • listen 爸爸妈妈 bà ba mā ma - parents

Sisters and brothers in Mandarin

In Mandarin, there are two options for sister and two for brother, depending on whether they are older or younger than you.

MandarinPinyinEnglish
listen 姐姐jiě jieolder sister
listen 妹妹mèi meiyounger sister
listen 哥哥gē geolder brother
listen 弟弟dì diyounger brother

Grandparents in Mandarin

In Mandarin, different words are used to describe the grandparents who are your father’s parents and the grandparents who are your mother’s parents.

The same is true for all other relatives too, eg uncles, aunts and cousins.

MandarinPinyinEnglish
listen 外公wài gōng grandfather (mother's father)
listen 外婆wài pógrandmother (mother‘s mother)
listen 爷爷yé yegrandfather (father’s father)
listen 奶奶nǎi naigrandmother (father’s mother)

Talking about your family in Mandarin

listen Kǒu’ is the measure word used in Mandarin when talking about the number of members in a family - it literally means 'a mouth'.

To ask about someone’s family in Mandarin, you can say:

listen 你家有几口人? Nǐ jiā yǒu jǐ kǒu rén? - How many people are there in your family?

To answer in Mandarin, you could say:

listen 我家有四口人。 Wǒ jiā yǒu sì kǒu rén - There are four people in my family

You can switch out four (listen ) for any other number, eg one (listen ), three (listen sān) etc except for ‘two’.

When you want to say you have two of something in Mandarin, you don’t use listen èr (two).

Instead, you use the Mandarin word listen liǎng.

You can also use the phrase listen 我有 Wǒ yǒu (I have) in Mandarin:

  • listen 我有一个哥哥 Wǒ yǒu yī gè gē ge - I have one older brother

  • listen 我有两个妹妹 Wǒ yǒu liǎng gè mèi mei - I have two younger sisters

Did you know?

To introduce a family member, you can use listen 这是 Zhè shì (This is) with the particle ‘listen de’ to express possession.

MandarinPinyinEnglish
listen 我的wǒ demy
listen 你的nǐ deyour
listen 他的tā dehis
listen 她的tā deher

So, to introduce your mother, you would say:

listen 这是我的妈妈 Zhè shì wǒ de mā ma - This is my mother

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