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Mazharul Rifat
Confusion on using sister in law

My brother's wife is called my 'sister-in-law'.

This term has a dual meaning in English, as I can call my brother's wife my sister-in-law, and I can call my wife's sister as my sister-in-law too.

Then my question is to you, if I want to tell someone about my brother's wife that,

"My sister-in-law is a business women"

How they could understand, is it my brother's wife or my wife's sister? 

Aug 31, 2016 6:47 AM
Comments · 10

I agree with Seth. It's not an important distinction for English speakers. If it were important, we would have different words for the two concepts. That's how language works (generally).

If someone really is interested to know whether you're referring to your brother's wife or your wife's sister they can ask you.

August 31, 2016

It shouldn't matter. If you say your sister-in-law is a business woman, few people would ask if she's your wife's sister or your brother's wife unless they know you or are interested.

It's the same in quite a few languages.

I agree with Michael and José.

August 31, 2016
It's the same if you say: My uncle Tom lives in London. Is your uncle because he is your mother's brother or your father's?
August 31, 2016
If the person is not obvious to the listener, then you have to add, "that is, my brother's wife / my sister's husband". I am sorry but there is no easier way. 
August 31, 2016

@Seth :  Thanks for your question. Yes, In Bengali language we have different words for dad's brother/mother's brother.

I can give you some example.

In Bengali language Mother's brother is called as "Mama", Mother's sister is called as "Khala", Dad's brother is called as "Kaka", Dad's sister is called as "fufu" etc

Thank you

September 2, 2016
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Mazharul Rifat
Language Skills
Arabic (Modern Standard), Bengali, English, Hindi
Learning Language