When an author says that a particular company is "run by the same family", what does that mean?

How far can the meaning of the phrase "same family" cover? In other words, who can be considered a member of the "same family" in the context of running a particular business?

Do members have to bear the same last name? I don't think so. For example, in some cultures women change titles.

What about cousins from aunts who don't bear the same last name, are they considered a family (the same family)?

This question is important to me: If the business is run by a son-in-law, can we say the company is still run by the "same family"? This son-in-law may or may not own any shares in the company; he is only the president of the company.

I'm asking the questions above to show you the factors I have been thinking about when answering this question.

The second key question is: when we say that a business is run by the same family, is the meaning about ownership or both, ownership and holding the office (I mean being the president of the company)?

I think this question is still general English, but if not, you may want to move it to the appropriate SE group.

Edit: I am asking because there is a (right, wrong or does not say) question about the history of Nintendo and is literally as follows:"Nintendo has always been run by the same family". Family run and family owned are well-known collocations. However, the question is not about collocations but rather about comprehension. To answer the question correctly, I need to know who is considered a member of the same family. The article is 175-200 words long.

Edit 2: What's relevant here is these two names:

  • Nintendo was founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi in Kyoto in 1889.
  • The current Nintendo president is Satoru Iwata.

The answer: I think I got it. If the business is run by the family, the least it could mean is that the members have the majority stake. Since they cannot all be presidents at the same time, then running the business means simply have the decision over the company by the majority stake. However, the article does not mention anything about the stakes, so the answer is "does not say". This is my analysis.

  • The same family is odd phrasing unless the author is saying the same family as the one that does something else. Generally, the company would be described as a "family run" or "family owned" company. It isn't a precise description about which family members have which types of involvement unless there is more context.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 21:48
  • The right or wrong question is about the history of Nintendo and is literally as follows:"Nintendo has always been run by the same family". family run and family owned are well known collocations. The question was not about collocations though. It's about comprehension. But to answer the question correctly you need to know who is considered a member of the same family. The article is 175-200 words long.
    – learner
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 22:02
  • 1
    You seem to think that English is some kind of magical language designed for all cultures. The English language was designed by the Anglo people, and was primarily iterated upon by Anglo-American people. Therefore, I think your question about what "same" means isn't so much of a question about English as a question about a culture and what "same family" means to them. This is a rather colloquial phrase and therefore it's not going to be very precise because it relies on cultural capital to get the meaning across. You may want to look up the author and find out what nationality they are.
    – Crazy Eyes
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 22:46
  • Missed (or does not say) I should have written in the type of question. The answer is (doesn't say) but I wanted to understand why because I thought the answer was (wrong). We have two different presidents with different last names!
    – learner
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 22:56
  • 2
    Family-run is not the same as family-owned. That's why we have the phrase family owned and operated.
    – user6951
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 23:29

1 Answer 1


As noted by commenters, this may depend on the culture; but my own opinion is that it can cover even fairly distant relations, provided that the family relationship is the reason for the continuity. So, if operation is transferred from father to son-in-law, and then to son-in-law's younger brother, then to that younger brother's granddaughter, and then to that granddaughter's cousin, and so on, then it's still been "run by the same family", even though at this point the original manager and the current manager are essentially unrelated. On the other hand, if the enterprise is put up for auction, and the second cousin of the current owner-and-operator happens to place the winning bid, I'm not so sure that I would count that. (But "the same family" is sufficiently vague that the new owner could probably get away with making the claim.)

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