Sunday, July 10, 2011

Common Errors: Confusing "Family" Words

Hello everyone, and welcome to Mistake Sunday (Monday is going to be busy, so I'm posting this Common Error a day early)! Today's error is common for most of my Spanish-speaking students, since Spanish--and probably other languages, too--has a tendency to group people together under a "masculine" word. For example, if someone says "Tengo cuatro hermanos" ("I have four 'brothers'"), it's unclear if the speaker is referring only to males, or to males and females together.

English did and still does this, too, but it's not as common these days. Consider the phrase from the Declaration of Independence, "all men are created equal." That was obviously written hundreds of years ago, and today would probably read, "all men and women" or "all people." Nevertheless, this error is easy to recognize and correct, with a couple of good vocabulary words. Let's take a look:

Common Error: Confusing "Family" Words
DON’T say this:Clark Kent lived with his fathers, Jonathan and Martha, before he became Superman.
I'm going to visit my uncles Peter, Paul, and Mary during the vacation.
We are seven brothers in my family, and I am one of the three girls.
WHY?-If you are talking about two dads (both males, obviously), then you can use the word "fathers." If not, use the word "parents," which indicates men and/or women.

-Use "uncles" for men, but if you're including women, you have to use the phrase "aunt(s) and uncle(s)."

-For brothers and sisters together, use the word "siblings," which indicates brothers and/or sisters together.

-Finally, if you're talking about the number of people in your family, the phrase "we are" sounds strange. Instead, say something like "there are (3) of us" or "I have (2) siblings."
INSTEAD, SAY THIS:-"Clark Kent lived with his parents, Jonathan and Martha, before he became Superman."
-"I'm going to visit my aunt Mary and my uncles Peter and Paul during the vacation."
-"There are seven siblings in my family, and I'm one of three girls." OR
-"My parents had seven children, including three girls."

So, I hope that was helpful! If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for future Common Errors, please leave a message in the Comments section or contact us

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

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-Ryan