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Grammar detail: family members

family members
387 words
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When communicating in Japanese, it is important that you are able to use the appropriate terms to refer to your own family members and the family members of others.
When referring to one's own family members, in most cases it is best to use the following terms:
  • そぼ
    祖母
    grandmother
  • そふ
    祖父
    grandfather
  • はは
    mother
  • ちち
    father
  • あに
    older brother
  • あね
    older sister
  • おとうと
    younger brother
  • いもうと
    younger sister
While these terms are used to refer to one's own family members, when speaking about these family members within the family, with very close friends and with children it would be more common to use the terms introduced below. It is also worth noting that Japanese children are more likely to use the terms below, up until they reach around high-school age.
When someone addresses their mother or father, in most cases they would say お
とう
さん and お
かあ
さん. Similarly they would address their grandmother or grandfather as お祖母さん and お祖父さん. When addressing one's older brother or sister 'お
にい
さん', 'お
ねえ
さん' is used, rather than the sibling's name. ちゃん may replace さん in many cases and is a term of endearment. However, younger siblings are addressed by their names.
Families will also often address grandparents as ばあば (granny / gran / nan etc) じいじ (grandpa / gramps etc). These terms express a greater sense of closeness and affection.
These days Japanese children, up to the age of around 10 or 11, often refer to their parents as ママ (Mom / Mama) and パパ (Dad / Papa) and adults are heard more often using these terms when speaking to children about their parents.
When referring to other people's family members, the following terms are used:
  • ばあ
    祖母
    さんgrandmother
  • じい
    祖父
    さん grandfather
  • かあ
    さんmother
  • とう
    さん father
  • にい
    さん older brother
  • ねえ
    さん older sister
  • おとうと
    さん younger brother
  • いもうと
    さん younger sister
Some of these terms can also be used to refer to people who are not related to the speaker. For example, お
じい
祖父
さん is a common (and perfectly polite) way to refer to an elderly gentleman.
Additionally, some of these terms might be used when family members are talking together about another family member. For example, younger siblings might refer to the eldest son as お兄さん (or more casually お兄ちゃん) when talking to each other.
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Words used in this grammar

1
grandmother  (see also: )
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1
1. grandfather
2. old man  (see also: ; this meaning is restricted to reading おおじ)
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2
noun
mother  (see also: ; かか was used by children; humble)
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1 2
noun
father  (see also: ; とと and ちゃん are used by children; humble)
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1
noun
elder brother; older brother  (humble)
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0
Most common form:
noun
older sister; elder sister  (humble)
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4
noun
1. younger brother; little brother; kid brother  (humble)
2. pupil; apprentice  (archaic; this meaning is restricted to reading てい)
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4
noun
younger sister  (humble)
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2
Most common form: おバーさん
noun
1. grandmother  (see also: 祖母さん; usu. お祖母さん; often written with kana only)
2. old woman; female senior citizen  (see also: 婆さん; usu. お婆さん; often written with kana only)
(click the word to view an additional 9 forms, examples and links)
2
Most common form: 御爺さん
noun
1. grandfather  (see also: 祖父さん; usu. お祖父さん; often written with kana only)
2. male senior-citizen  (usu. お爺さん; often written with kana only)
(click the word to view an additional 4 forms, examples and links)
2
noun
mother  (see also: 母さん; honorific)
(click the word to view an additional 2 forms, examples and links)
2
noun
father; dad; papa; pa; pop; daddy; dada  (see also: 父さん; honorific)
(click the word to view an additional 1 reading and 2 forms, examples and links)
2
Most common form: 御兄さん
noun
1. older brother; elder brother  (see also: 兄さん; honorific)
2. (vocative) young man; buddy; fella; laddie
(click the word to view an additional 2 forms, examples and links)
2
Most common form: お姐さん
noun
1. elder sister  (see also: 姉さん; usu. お姉さん; honorific)
2. (vocative) young lady  (see also: 姉さん)
(click the word to view an additional 3 meanings and 4 forms, examples and links)
noun
younger brother  (honorific)
(click the word for examples and links)
0
noun
younger sister  (honorific)
(click the word for examples and links)

Kanji used in this grammar

ソ    ancestor   
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ボ   はは mother   
フ   ちち father   
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ケイ   キョウ   elder brother; brother   あに elder brother   
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シ   あね elder sister   
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ダイ   テイ   デ   おとうと younger brother   
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マイ   いもうと younger sister   
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