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Family idioms and expressions in English

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English idioms and expressions about family

Whether we come from a big or small family, a traditional or modern one, it shapes who we are and how we view the world. It’s no surprise, then, that the English language is full of expressions related to family. In this blog, we’ll explore some of the most well-known family idioms and expressions in English. We’ll explain the meanings and give examples of how to use them in everyday conversations.

blood is thicker than water

means that family relationships are stronger than any other kind of relationship.

I know my cousin can be difficult, but blood is thicker than water, so I will always be there for her.

a close-knit family

refers to a family that is very close and supportive of each other.

I come from a very close-knit family. We always come together for holidays and special occasions, and help each other out whenever we need to.

cut from the same cloth

describes people who are similar in personality or behaviour.

My brother and I are cut from the same cloth. We have the same sense of humour and love of music.

like father, like son / like mother, like daughter

means that a child is very similar to their parent in personality or behaviour.

My daughter is just like me. Like mother, like daughter!

a chip off the old block

refers to a child who is very similar to their parent in personality or behaviour.

My son has the same love of science and sense of humour as his dad. He’s a chip off the old block.

the apple doesn't fall far from the tree

means that a child is very similar to their parent in personality or behaviour.

My daughter loves animals and has a kind heart, just like her dad. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

English family expressions

to take after someone

means that a child is similar to a parent or relative in some way.

My niece takes after her grandma in her love of gardening.

spitting image

means to be extremely similar or almost identical in appearance.

My nephew is the spitting image of his father when he was young

to run in the family

means that a trait or characteristic is common among family members.

Heart disease runs in my family, so I try to eat healthily and exercise regularly.

sibling rivalry

refers to the competition or jealousy that can exist between siblings.

My sister and I had a lot of sibling rivalry growing up, but we’re close now that we’re adults.

black sheep

refers to a family member who is considered a disappointment or an outcast.

My brother is the black sheep of the family because he dropped out of college and doesn’t have a steady job.

to keep it in the family

means to keep something within the family, such as private information or to keep a family business or tradition going.

My parents want to keep their restaurant in the family and pass it down to the next generation.

family brother and sister

to follow in someone’s footsteps

means to pursue a similar career or life path as a parent or mentor.

My dad was a doctor, and I always knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps.


refers to the person in a family who earns the majority of the income.

My mum was the breadwinner in our family. She worked hard to provide for us.

to bring home the bacon

means to earn a living or provide for a family.

My dad works long hours to bring home the bacon and support our family.

flesh and blood

refers to a family member or a group or family members.

I can’t believe my own flesh and blood would steal from me.

bad blood

to have a negative relationship with someone due to past conflicts or disagreements.

There’s bad blood between my uncle and my dad because of a business deal gone wrong.

born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth

means to be born into a wealthy and privileged family.

The CEO’s son was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He’s never had to work a day in his life.

family sisters

Practise using English family idioms and expressions

Learning English expressions related to family not only broadens your vocabulary, but also help learners to sound more natural and fluent.

To practice using these expressions, try incorporating them into conversations with English-speaking friends or classmates. You can also try writing short stories or dialogues using these expressions, or even create flashcards with the idioms on one side and their meanings on the other.

Example conversations

Here’s two example conversations which include some of the family idioms and expressions.

Emma & Sarah

Hey, how’s your family doing?

They’re doing well thanks.

That’s great. Do you take after your parents at all?

Yeah, I do. My mum is a lawyer, and I followed in her footsteps.

That’s really cool. I think I’m more like my dad than my mum. He’s always been my role model.

It’s nice to have someone to look up to like that. Are you close with your siblings?

Yeah, we get along pretty well. We had some sibling rivalry growing up, but nothing major.

Yeah, I know what you mean. Even though my sister is the black sheep of the family, we still love her and we’re flesh and blood, you know?

Absolutely. And at the end of the day, they say blood is thicker than water.

Tom & Jessica

Hey, I heard you got a job at the same company as your dad.

Yeah, we’re both engineers. I guess it runs in the family.

That’s pretty cool. Your dad must be proud. And what does your mum do?

Well, my mum’s always had two jobs, looking after us and working part time in a hospital. So, my dad has always been the breadwinner in our family. But together, my mum and dad have worked hard to bring home the bacon so they can provide for us.

That’s admirable. It sounds like you have a really close-knit family.

I guess you could say that, but it’s not like we haven’t faced our own challenges. There’s been some bad blood between some family members over the years. But we know that it’s important to keep it in the family and work through those issues together. And how are things in your family?

Well, people say that I’m the spitting image of my dad, but I definitely wouldn’t say that I’m a chip off the old block. My dad always is the managing director of an international company and always brings work home with him, whereas I’m about to start my career in acting!

Now it’s your turn!

Try creating your own dialogues with some of the family idioms and expressions.

Learn faster with an English trainer

If you’re looking for more structured practice and to learn faster, English lessons with a qualified teacher can be a great option. A professional teacher can provide personalised feedback and guidance on how to use these expressions in a natural and effective way. They can also offer additional resources, such as reading materials and listening exercises, to help learners improve their overall language level and fluency. Check out English course options in Munich or learn English online with EnglishRadar.

To summarise, learning family idioms and expressions is not only fun and interesting, but also a valuable way to improve our language skills and become fluent and confident speakers of English. So why not give it a try?

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