an only son [no sister either?]

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HSS

Senior Member
Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
If you hear 'He is an only son,' do you automatically think he doesn't have a brother or a sister? Or, could it be he has a sister? An explanation I found in a book negates the possibility of having a sister, and I wanted to know if it's true.
 
  • Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Hi,

    I am not familiar with the phrase "an only son" (I haven't heard "an only daughter" either). Usually, people say "an only child" if they want to indicate that someone has no siblings.

    If I did hear someone say "an only son", then my first assumption would be that the person has no brothers, but might have a sister.

    With that said, the phrase "an only son" is so uncommon that I would not necessarily be sure what the other person meant by it, in which case I would ask him/her for clarification (if possible) rather than sticking with my initial assumption.
     

    waltern

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    It's not a commonly used phrase in English ("only child" would be more typical) - to answer your question, it leaves open the possibility of a sister.

    (X-posted)
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    It's not a commonly-used phrase in BE, either. :(

    I suppose I could actually say "I am an only son" in that I have a sister but no brothers.

    However, a much more common use of "only son" is to say something like:
    "They have four daughters, but he is their only son". :)
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If you hear 'He is an only son,' do you automatically think he doesn't have a brother or a sister? Or, could it be he has a sister? An explanation I found in a book negates the possibility of having a sister, and I wanted to know if it's true.
    In British English it is quite a usual expression but I think it's ambiguous.

    Some people mean by it an only child who is a son, and others mean the only male child (there may be female ones).
     
    Last edited:

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Thanks, everyone.

    It looks like the expression is not too commonly used, and if used, it could not exclude him having a sister.

    Thanks again.

    Hiro
     
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