My sister(-in-law )and brother-in-law

marget

Senior Member
Hello,

If someone says "my sister and brother -in-law", could it mean my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, or do you think one must say "in-law" even the first time? A non-native speaker used this expression and I took it to mean his own sister and his brother-in-law, but as the discussion developed, I realized he meant that they were both in-laws for him. Was I being too literal in my interpretation or should I correct him?

Thanks in advance:)
 
  • SwissPete

    Senior Member
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    If you want to say "my sister-in-law and my brother-in-law" then say so to avoid any confusion. To me, "my sister and brother-in-law" means just that.
     

    marget

    Senior Member
    If you want to say "my sister-in-law and my brother-in-law" then say so to avoid any confusion. To me, "my sister and brother-in-law" means just that.
    Thanks. I just wanted to confirm. My friend is French and I think he is mistakenly applying the rules of his native language to mine when using this expression.
     

    SwissPete

    Senior Member
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    My friend is French and I think he is mistakenly applying the rules of his native language to mine when using this expression.
    I don't think the "rules" are different in French. Since this is the English Only forum, I can't give any example, but the same confusion would exist.
     
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think SwissPete (#2) means that 'my sister and brother-in-law' means my sister and her husband, whilst 'my sister-in-law and my brother-in-law' means my wife's sister and her husband.

    But it could also mean my wife's sister and my wife's brother.

    Beam me up, Scotty.


    Rover
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think SwissPete (#2) means that 'my sister and brother-in-law' means my sister and her husband, whilst 'my sister-in-law and my brother-in-law' means my wife's sister and her husband.

    But it could also mean my wife's sister and my wife's brother.

    Beam me up, Scotty.


    Rover

    Just to throw a wrench in the works...

    "sister and brother-in-law" could also mean "my sister" and my other sister's husband.

    This is not as strange as it might sound. If you have a married sister, now deceased, and a unmarried sister coming to visit for Thanksgiving, then you might say, "My sister and brother-in-law are coming for Thanksgiving." There is almost no other way to phrase it.

    In one way this is more logical that the other interpretation; as you have stated the more conventional (and less confusing) way to say it is "my sister and her husband".

    It gets more confusing when, in New York, your in-laws are forever. So if your sister who has married 7 times is coming for Thanksgiving dinner and the friendly ex-husbands are too, then it might be: "My sister, her husband and my 6 bothers-in-law."
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This is a theoretical problem unless I bring it to a real situation.

    I have a brother, Mark, and a sister, Noreen.
    Both are married, so I have a sister-in-law, Orla, and a brother-in-law, Paul.
    What do I say if I don't use their names?
    If I am talking about Noreen and her husband Paul, I say my sister and her husband. I don't say my sister and brother-in-law.
    Similarly, Mark and Orla are my brother and his wife, not my brother and sister-in-law.

    How do I refer to Orla and Paul?
    They are my sister and brother-in-law.

    I might, as an aside, refer to Orla and Paul as my sister and my brother-in-law. Note the repetition of my.

    That's how it works in my family. Names have been changed, of course :)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Coincidentally, I have a brother and sister with the same names as panj's; and they are also married to people called Paul and Orla. Clearly, panj and I are related.

    We talk about our families slightly differently, however.

    I would happily refer to my sister Noreen and her husband Paul as my sister and brother-in-law. I would just as happily refer to my brother Mark and his wife Orla as my brother and sister-in-law. In both cases I might repeat "my"; but in practice I probably wouldn't.

    If I wanted to refer to Orla and Paul, I might write "my sister- and brother-in-law" (with an anticipatory hyphen after sister). But I'd have to say "my sister-in-law and [my] brother-in-law" :)
     
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