Japanese Essentials: Family, and the Japanese Words for Mother and Father
When speaking about family in Japanese, you will not use the same words whether your speaking about your loved ones or about another person’s family members.
What are the Japanese words for “mother” and “father”? When speaking about your family in Japanese, the words used vary based on whether you’re speaking about your loved ones or about another person’s family members.
Talking about YOUR Family Members
Let’s first learn the vocabulary you’ll use to talk about your family members:
- 父: (your) father
- 母: (your) mother
- 兄: (your) older brother
- 姉: (your) older sister
- 弟: (your) little brother
- 妹: (your) little sister
- 夫: (your) husband)
- 妻: (your) wife
- 娘: (your) daughter
- 息子: (your) son
- 子供: (your) children
- 兄弟: (your) siblings
The Japanese language has no grammatical gender, so it’s very easy to use key phrases as previously mentioned in the How To Introduce Yourself in Japanese article.
(私の)妻はアメリカ人です。((My) wife is American.)
- 私の: ‘I’ is followed by the particle の to mark possession. の can be translated into English “‘s”. This a very simple function with の expressing who the possessor is. Japanese doesn’t have possessive pronoun.
- は: topic marker
(私の)母は教師です。((My) mother is a teacher.)
Addressing SOMEONE ELSE’S Family
When you address someone else’s family, you have to use the polite form.
- お父さん: father
- お母さん: mother
- お兄さん: older brother
- お姉さん: older sister
- 弟さん: little brother
- 妹さん: little sister
- ご主人: husband
- 奥さん: wife
- 娘さん: daughter
- 息子さん: son
- お子さん: children
- ご兄弟: siblings
お子さんがいますか。((Do you) have children?)
はい、娘と息子がいます。(Yes, (I) have a daughter and a son.)
いいえ、いません。(No, (I) don’t.)
- います is the polite ending of the verb いる, meaning “to be” or “exist” for living creatures (people, animal). いません is the polite negative.
- と: particle, translates as “and”.
- が: particle, subject marker.
ご兄弟がいますか。((Do you) have siblings?)
Counters for Number of People
The Japanese language uses different counters depending on what you’re counting and very often some numbers will be irregular.
When counting people, you will use 人 (にん). However, 1 person is ひとり and 2 persons ふたり.
- 1 person: ひとり（1人）
- 2 persons: ふたり （2人）
- 3 persons: さんにん （３人）
- 4 persons: よにん （4人）
- number + にん
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