JLPT N5 Vocabulary – Family Vocabulary

N5 Vocabulary, Japanese family vocabulary

Most of the words for your immediate family are covered in the N5. As you may have learned before, in Japanese, there are different words that refer to your in-group (e.g. your family) and members of an out-group (e.g. someone else’s family). You might have heard of these referred to as humble, for in-group, and honorable, for out-group. Let’s look at an example for 父 (father, humble) and お父さん (father, honorable):

ちちは       こうえんに います。
chichiwa  kouenni          imasu.
My father is at the park.

あきこさんの おとうさんは こうえんに います。
akikosanno        otousanwa     kouenni          imasu.
Akiko’s father is at the park.

Simple right? It’s not always that black and white though. You can also call your own father, おとうさん or your mother, おかあさん. In this sense, it is actually considered more casual than ちち, for father and 母, for mother. So you might say something like the following to your Japanese mother:

かあさん、なにを していますか。
okaasan,   nanio    shiteimasuka.
Mommy, what are you doing?

Note that in the sentence above we are using ています, which is actually too polite to be using with members of your immediate family. In real use, you might say something like the following:

かあさん、なにを してるの?
okaasan,    nanio    shiteruno?
Mommy, whatcha doing?

You won’t see something so casual on the N5 though. Everything on the test is in the polite -masu form except clauses which require the casual form.

Needless to say these two sets of vocabulary can get a bit confusing. There is another very casual set of terms to refer to your parents, which are becoming more popular with young kids:

パパ  ママ
papa        mama
father      mother

Keep in mind that these are only used with smaller children (or people that want to sound like them).

Trying to figure out how and when to use humble vs. honorable always gave me fits in my early days. To me, it is better think of them as my family and somebody else’s family. That doesn’t always hold true of course, but it is easier for me to think of it that way. Here are a few more words for close family members you might see on the N5:

English To address them or in casual situations To talk about your own family in a more formal situation (humble) To talk about another’s family
Father とうさん ちち とうさん
otousan chichi otousan
Mother かあさん はは かあさん
okaasan haha okaasan
Big Brother あににいちゃん* あに にいさん
ani・niichan ani oniisan
Little Brother おとうとおとうとちゃん* おとうと おとうとさん
otouto・otoutochan otouto otoutosan
Big Sister あねねえちゃん* あね ねえさん
ane・neechan ane oneesan
Little Sister いもうといもうとちゃん* いもうと いもうとさん
imouto・imoutochan imouto imoutosan
Uncle / older man おじさん おじさん おじさん
ojisan ojisan ojisan
Aunt / older woman おばさん おばさん おばさん
obasan obasan obasan
Grandpa / male senior citizen おじいさん おじいさん おじいさん
ojiisan ojiisan ojiisan
Grandma / female senior citizen おばあさん おばあさん おばあさん
obaasan obaasan obaasan


*Using ~ちゃん makes this pretty casual. You will hear this used in real conversation, but it won’t appear on the test.

If you are wondering what the kanji for uncle / aunt / grandpa / grandma are, they do exist. However, they are rarely used and most Japanese will not be able to recognize or use them. They are almost always written in kana.

Other Useful Vocabulary

Here is a short list of some other family words that might come up on the test:

兄弟きょうだい – siblings, brothers and sisters

The following words might appear on the test without kanji, written in hiragana only.

おや/両親りょうしん – parents

家族かぞく – family

主人しゅじん (humble)・御主人ごしゅじん (honorable)
shujin                   goshujin

This is what is commonly used in the Kanto area, but in the Kansai area you might hear 旦那だんな or 旦那だんなさん.
danna   dannasan

つま (humble)・おくさん (honorable) – wife
tsuma               okusan

Do you think you have it?  Visit the N5 Vocabulary Course and download the family chart and fill in the details about your family. The more you visualize this vocabulary and take a little time to link it to real life, the easier it will be to remember. Filling out the chart will help lock of all this in.

Afterwards, you can take a quick quiz to check your understanding of the vocabulary.

{ 0 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment

JLPT Boot Camp - The Ultimate Study Guide to passing the Japanese Language Proficiency Test