Get Ready for B1: Talking about Family
Talking about family is a typical topic in Part One of the Aptis Speaking tests and in many other oral exams such as Cambridge B1, Trinity Initial Stage & ISE F. We’ll start by looking at various ways to describe your immediate and your extended family.
Your immediate (or nuclear) family usually refers to your parents, brothers and sisters, partner and children. However, this definition can vary from place to place and from family to family. It could also include your grandparents and grandchildren, especially if they live with you.
Another very common term for a family unit is single-parent family. This obviously applies to families where only one parent is bringing up (raising) the child or children. And a child who has no brothers or sisters is an only child.
Your extended family also includes all the other people who are related to you by birth or by marriage, such as your aunts, uncles and cousins. These people are your relatives or relations. To revise all this basic vocabulary for family members, go to Get Ready for B1: Grammar & Vocab Revision.
We use two main prefixes to describe family members (as you’ll see in the table in that post): grand- and great-. These prefixes can go up or down a generation. For example, your mother’s mother is your grandmother, and you are her grandson or granddaughter. Your mother’s uncle is your great-uncle, and you are his great-nephew or great-niece.
Quick grammar point: the possessive ‘s’
We use an apostrophe and an ‘s’ to make the possessive form of a noun. For example, my mother’s brother = the brother of my mother. This ‘s’ is voiced – it vibrates when you say it and the phoneme is /z/. [For more on the different ways to pronounce ‘s’, go to Pronunciation of ‘s’ Endings.] In written English you need to follow these rules when using the apostrophe and ‘s’
For single nouns, we use ’s, as in “my mother’s brother”.
For plural nouns we use s’, as in “my daughters’ names are Ana and Dina.
For irregular plural nouns that don’t end in “s”, we use ’s, as in “the women’s families”.
Interesting vocabulary point
Have you noticed that many of the words that describe people have irregular plural forms? Look:
person – people, child – children, woman – women /ˈwɪmɪn/, man – men.
Tell me about your family
A typical question in an oral exam is ‘Tell me about your family’. Try to use some of these terms and vocabulary for talking about family. Make it more interesting by adding details about their characters, occupations, likes and dislikes etc. Read these example answers for one of the questions in Part One of the Aptis Speaking Test:
There are three of us in my immediate family. I’m an only child and then there’s my mum and dad. They’re both teachers. I take after* my dad – it’s obvious who my father is! We look the same, and we also have very similar personalities. We’re both a little short-tempered at times, but very sociable too.
* take after – resemble in looks and/or character
I’m not married, but I live with my partner and we’ve got a son and a daughter – they’re twins, actually! My extended family’s quite large – my elder sister has a son and a daughter, so I’ve got one nephew and one niece. And they’ve both got children, which makes me a great-aunt! I often look after* them at weekends.
*look after – take care of
Quick grammar point: have and have got
There are two ways to ask questions with ‘have’. Both mean the same. Have got is more common in British English, while have is more common in American English. Use the one you prefer. We usually answer using the same form.
Do you have any brothers or sisters?
– Yes, I have one brother and two sisters.
Do you have any children?
– No, I don’t.
Have you got any uncles or aunts?
– Yes, I’ve got one uncle and two aunts.
Have you got any cousins?
– No, I haven’t.
Make sure you also study Get ready for B1: Grammar and Vocab Revision, as you’ll need the vocabulary for the next part. Now try this mini-test to practise some of the vocabulary for talking about family.
We’ll soon be adding more basic vocabulary presentations and exercises under the heading ‘Get ready for B1’.
There are also pre-B1 grammar presentations and practice, like Get Ready for B1: Adverbs of Frequency.
If you want more vocabulary practice, we recommend the excellent ‘English in Use’ series published by Cambridge.