Italian Language Blog

La Famiglia – Part 1 Posted by on Aug 31, 2011 in Italian Language

La Famiglia è tutto – family is everything, as we say in Italy.

Let’s have a look at how we name the immediate members of our family, beginning with our parents.

Here we have a classic example of un falso amico – a false friend, i.e. a word that sounds the same in both Italian and English but which has a different meaning.

In Italian parente (plural = parenti) means not parent but relative:

To talk about a female relative we might say: Giovanna è una mia parente –  Giovanna is a relative of mine

To talk about a male relative we might say: Luca è un mio parente –  Luca is a relative of mine

So what do we call our parents? I miei genitori – my parents, often shortened to simply i miei:

stamattina vado a trovare i miei – this morning I’m going to visit my parents

I genitori di Giovanna abitano a Sarzana  – Giovanna’s parents live in Sarzana

My father is mio padre, although I usually call him papà. Some people use the word babbo which also means dad.

Il babbo di Luca fa il falegname – Luca’s dad is a carpenter

Mia madre is my mother, but I usually call her mamma – mum

Fratello means brother: Mio fratello Francesco abita vicino a Lucca – my brother Francesco lives near Lucca

Ho tre fratelli – I’ve got three brothers, però non ho sorelle – I haven’t got any sisters however

Geoff ha quattro sorelle – Geoff has four sisters, sua sorella più piccola abita in Francia – his youngest sister lives in France

N.B.when we talk about siblings in general we use the masculine fratelli, e.g.

Quanti fratelli hai? – how many brothers and sisters do you have? Ho un fratello e due sorelle – I’ve got one brother and two sisters.

Figlio (plural = figli) is son, and figlia (plural = figlie) is daughter, however, when talking about children in general we use the masculine form figli:

Michele e Giada hanno tre figli, tutti e tre maschi – Michele and Giada have three children, all boys

Luca, quanti figli hai? … ne ho due, un maschio ed una femmina – Luca, how many children have you got? … I’ve got two, a boy and a girl

Roberta, quanti figli hai? … Ho due figlie – Roberta, how many children have you got? … I’ve got two daughters

N.B. Luca replies: ne ho due, un maschio ed una femmina rather than ho un figlio e una figlia. Roberta, on the other hand, could have replied ho due femmine – I’ve got two girls.

Armando è figlio unico – Armando is an only (male) child, and Carolina è figlia unica – Carolina (female) is an only child.

Cecilia ha due figli adottivi, una ragazza di diciannove anni ed un ragazzo di diciassette anni – Cecilia has two adopted children, a nineteen year old girl and a boy of seventeen


In part two we’ll have a look at the extended family.

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  1. Susan:

    Ciao, Serena and thanks for a wonderful learning tool!

    Can you explain the use of “la mamma” ? I notice that you say “mia mamma” but I’ve also seen (in writing) people make the same designation with the article. Grazie tante!

    • Serena:

      @Susan Salve Susan, I’m going to publish a blog on Wednesday dealing with this topic. Rimani sintonizzata!
      A presto!

  2. Rob:

    Good info cant wait for lessom two

  3. Servet:

    Ciao Serena,

    Grazie per il blog e per tutti info

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