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"First Son" in mandarin


cecilywong

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Another option is 老大 which is not so formal.

e.g. 老张有三个儿子,老大在长沙工作。

Apart from its not-so-formalness, 老大 is slightly different from 长子 in that 老大 is the first child of a couple ( assuming the couple has more than two children).

The second child is called 老二 and in the same fashion, the third 老三. 以此类推

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clear

My younger brother is the youngest child but he is 長子, and my older sister is 長女.

I think there is usually some ambiguity. When you say "first", do you mean the first of all children, or the first of all sons? 長子 can be both. I am not sure if 大兒子 is applicable to my brother (but he is definitely 老么).

Does this ambiguity exist in English "first son", "eldest son"?

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Hmm, does "长子/eldest son" imply that there might be, but not necessarily, more sons? To avoid the ambiguity if there is only one son among the siblings, couldn't one say 独子? This wouldn't imply anything about whether he is the oldest of the siblings or not. Please correct me if i'm wrong.

Oh, all the names to describe various family members in Chinese is maddeningly complicated to a Westerner!

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So does it mean that if the first child is a girl and the second child is a son, the second child is not the "first son" or the "eldest son"? So my brother, who has two older sisters, is not the "first son" or the "eldest son"?

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no, he would be the eldest son or first son, but not the eldest child. This was important for the principle of primogeniture... (also called "first-born son" in this context). (EDIT: deleted tangential remark about the House of Hanover)

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So my brother, who has two older sisters, is not the "first son" or the "eldest son"?
no, he would be the eldest son or first son, but not the eldest child.

Wait a minute! skylee asked about English, it's slightly different: with your particular case, I think your brother won't be referred to as "the first/eldest son" but as "the (only) son". In English, "the first/eldest son" is used only if there is more than one son in the family.

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The main difference between "eldest son" and "first son" is that If the first son dies, the second son can become the eldest son.

Eldest living son, to be less ambiguous. I think people would say "their eldest son is dead" and refer to the next guy as "their second son."

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Eldest living son, to be less ambiguous

That's right, there are actually two interpretations for "eldest son", and both are correct. I said "can become the eldest son", but it is actually a personal judgement when you decide who is the "eldest son".

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