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Frage:
we are family?  
von jessy2, 2014-01-07, 19:12  like dislike  Spam?  77.190.159....
Hello,
I'm planning an English lesson about the topic family and thought of including the song "we are family". Unfortunately, I'm not really sure whether the sentence is grammatically correct, as I would rather say "we are a family" - is it possible to leave the article out? Of course I don't want to learn my pupils unusual sentence structures :)
Thank you in advance!
Antwort: 
von Windfall (GB), 2014-01-07, 19:45  like dislike  Spam?  
 #740199
It is good English, but unfortunately it refers to something very specific that might be quite hard to explain (unless the same thing exists in German).  You can say "He's family" to mean "He's a member of my family". That sort of sentence is often used as an excuse or reason. e.g. "Do I really have to invite Uncle Dave to the wedding? He always gets really drunk." "He's family, you have to. Just try to make sure he doesn't get his hands on too much of the good champagne." I think "We are family" works in the same way (otherwise you'd say "We are a family" or "We're a family").
Antwort: 
von Proofreader, 2014-01-07, 20:05  like dislike  Spam?  80.108.140....
 #740201
You could say "Onkel Dave gehört zur Familie" in German (Uncle Dave is family), but "Wir gehören zur Familie" (We are family) wouldn't make sense. It's just like saying "Ich bin ein Mensch" (I'm a human being).
Antwort: 
Sister Sledge (und die Autoren) sind native speakers...trust them! ;)  #740208
von Gobber (DE/IO), 2014-01-07, 21:34  like dislike  Spam?  
The chorus (and therefore the title) makes reference to the literal fact that the group are the four sisters of a family, though the song has since gone on to be used more generally as an expression of solidarity in various contexts, notably as the anthem of the We Are Family Foundation, which is named after it.
Antwort: 
von geo255 (US), 2014-01-08, 04:05  like dislike  Spam?  
 #740219
"He (or she) is family" is a specific formulation that can mean the person referenced is considered a part of the family in spite of the fact they are not actually related.  It really is a shortened form of "He (or she) is like family."

Of course, it can also mean that "he (or she) is a family member" and, again, it is a shortened form in this case.
Antwort: 
von Windfall (GB), 2014-01-08, 09:53  like dislike  Spam?  
 #740223
4;Gobber, don't trust song writers to write standard English: Wikipedia(EN): Artistic_license
Antwort: 
Windfall  #740226
von geo255 (US), Last modified: 2014-01-08, 11:49  like dislike  Spam?  
True, but are we a prescriptive dictionary?  I think not, for we only attempt to inform our users of different linguistic registers, not whether to use a particular word or expression.
Antwort: 
Windfall Don't you worry! I don't even trust ME to write standard German!! ;)  #740227
von Gobber (DE/IO), 2014-01-08, 11:47  like dislike  Spam?  
...but not being standard, doesn't mean 'wrong', does it?
Antwort: 
von Windfall (GB), 2014-01-08, 11:49  like dislike  Spam?  
 #740228
4;geo255, I'm all in favour of being descriptive, and describing the lyrics in songs as not reliably excluding non-standard uses of English that would not usually be used outside of songs or poetry strikes me as a good description. "Non-standard" is a term used in descriptive linguistics, "wrong" is a word more typical of prescriptive linguistics.
Antwort: 
von Windfall (GB), Last modified: 2014-01-08, 12:02  like dislike  Spam?  
 #740229
4;Gobber, it depends what you mean by wrong. There are some phrases in songs that it would be inappropriate to use in other circumstances and/or which could give rise to confusion if used in everyday speech or writing. Jessy2's question was a valid one, especially as this was not necessarily a case of artistic licence, but was a case of that phrase having a specific meaning that wasn't the same as "We are a family" in standard English (although given that this was a song, I wouldn't guarantee that the intended meaning here wasn't "we are a family" and this wasn't in fact simply artistic licence). That said, Sister Sledge's song has become so famous that its lyrics themselves seem to have impacted the English language and "We are family" seems to be used a lot more frequently than I would have expected the phrase to be used without the song.
Antwort: 
Windfall  #740247
von Gobber (DE/IO), 2014-01-08, 13:59  like dislike  Spam?  
hast natürlich recht! jessy2 hat nicht direkt von 'falsch' gesprochen, sondern von 'unusual sentence structures'...Ich denke der Unterschied zwischen mit/ohne 'a' entspricht in etwa dem deutschen
1. Wir sind eine Familie
zu
2. Wir gehören zur Familie
Antwort: 
von Sasso, 2014-01-08, 15:57  like dislike  Spam?  78.41.149....
 #740267
The sense described in 21:34 and 04:05 would be "Wir sind wie eine Familie" in German.

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