Series: Modern Family

One big (straight, gay, multi-cultural, traditional) happy family.

"We're from different worlds, yet we somehow fit together. Love is what binds us, through fair or stormy weather."

Modern Family is an ABC sitcom that centers on three families:

The Pritchetts, a May-December interracial couple: Ed O'Neill as the 60-something Jay married to the 30-something Gloria (played by Sofia Vergara), with an 11-year-old stepson, Manny (Rico Rodriguez).

The Dunphys, traditional two-parent, three-child set with Ty Burrell as Phil aka the "cool dad", and Julie Bowen as Claire, an overprotective mom and Former Teen Rebel. Their kids are Haley, Alex, and Luke (Sarah Hyland, Ariel Winter, Nolan Gould).

And finally, Mitchell & Cameron (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreetnote ), a gay couple who recently adopted a baby, Lily (Jayden & Ella in seasons 1 & 2, Aubrey Anderson-Emmons from Season 3 onwards).

At the end of the pilot, it's revealed that all three families are related—Claire and Mitchell are Jay's children from his first marriage—and cross over into one another's stories. Episodes tend to rely on standard family comedy tropes and plot lines, in a modern setting. The show uses the Docucomedy format popularized by The Office, and to great effect. But despite all these gimmicks, Modern Family's greatest strength is its excellent writing and acting.

When it began its first season, Modern Family quickly reached both critical acclaim and very high Nielsen numbers, becoming one of the best new comedies of 2009. Because of this success, the program has become the flagship title of ABC's Comedy Wednesdays along with Suburgatory and The Middle. Modern Family is currently running on its sixth season.

It's received the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series all five seasons it's been on the air.

Vote for your favorite episode here.

This series features examples of:

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    Tropes A-G 
  • Abraham Lincoln: "Robot Lincoln" is Jay's Favorite Disneyland attraction.
  • Absentee Actor: Ariel Winter missed several episodes in season two for unknown reasons (some people think it's because she's under fourteen and therefore subject to child labor laws - Nolan has been absent for quite a few episodes too for what many suspect the same reason).
    • Sarah Hyland wasn't completely missing for several episodes early in season four but she appeared via Skype only. She was missing presumably because she had a kidney transplant in April of 2012, yet her in-character reason was totally understandable.
  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: Gloria, of the stepmother variety. She's actually 14 months younger than Claire.
  • Accidental Athlete: In "A Fair to Remember", Cam recruits Manny for his football team after he spots Manny charging his way through a crowd, shouldering people out of the way, in order to get to a cake-baking contest before it closes.
    • Earlier, in "A Diamond in the Rough", Manny won the youth baseball championship for his and Luke's team by getting hit by a pitch with the game tied and bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.
  • A-Cup Angst: In S2 Ep17, "Two Monkeys and a Panda", Haley insults Alex after Alex complains about Haley wearing Alex's sweater without asking. Haley replies it was the first time the top half got any exercise. (Which is really quite humorous in this episode since the sweater is a form hugging one which made it very clear that Ariel Winter was growing "outward").
    • In "The Future Dunphys", two seasons later, Lily puts orange slices down the top of her shirt and asks when she'll get real boobs.
  • Aerith and Bob: A non-fantasy example with Cam's list of friends he wanted to invite to his fundraiser in Regrets Only: Longines, Pepper, Lamichael, Steven and Stephan, aaand... Bob.
  • Affectionate Parody: In "Baby on Board", a telenovela-style drama, echoing the fictional "Fire and Ice" that Gloria, Cam and (shh) Jay have been following, takes place at the Mexican hospital's waiting room, which results in Cam and Mitchell being deprived of a chance to adopt another child that they had been expecting (in a stunning example of Mood Whiplash.
  • Agony of the Feet: Gloria, wearing high heels in Disneyland, although she refuses to admit it.
    • This may be the first hint that she's pregnant.
  • All Gays Love Theater: Cameron, increasingly. After becoming the middle school's new music teacher, he is delighted at the opportunity to direct an adaptation of a popular musical. He even says he would have liked to call his adaptation "Cameron Tucker's Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera.''
  • All Periods Are PMS: Played absolutely straight in "Leap Day" .
    Luke: You're all "monsterating!"
  • All the Good Men Are Gay: Subverted in "Treehouse". After Cameron has won his bet with Mitchell and gotten the phone number of an attractive woman at the bar, things progress to the point where he has to tell her. He invites her over to the apartment, from which he's carefully removed all open traces of Mitchell and Lily's existence. It turns out she wasn't fooled in the slightest, she just wanted to have a gay male friend. Hilarity Ensues when Mitchell comes back, and she (having realized how crushed Cam was at failing to attract a woman) gives Cameron the sort of angry, hurt speech you'd expect if the trope had been played (ahem) straight, to help him save face.
  • Alpha Bitch: When Claire realizes in "Benched" that Alex has manipulated her fears that she's entering that phase of life where girls start not wanting to be seen with their mother into getting a twenty-dollar loan so she can blow off Claire and spend the afternoon with her friends instead, Claire pulls up next to them a short while later and loudly reminds her daughter that she needs to buy a new training bra, among other things calculated to seriously embarrass her. Lampshaded immediately thereafter when Claire admits to herself in the car that her goal was to get some emotional retaliation.
  • An Aesop: Most episodes have one.
  • Anti-Humor: In the Australia episode, Claire repeatedly refers to a project she's working on as her "baby", obsessing over it to the exclusion of her actual family. When the computer gets stolen out of her tent by a dingo, she panics:
    Claire: A wild dog took my laptop!
    Alex: [aside] Seems like a missed opportunity...
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Haley to Dylan. Of course, Dylan really isn't shown being all that bad, but he does have some of the traits associated with bad boys such as his hair, the way he dresses, and being in a rock band.
    • If anything, he subverts the trope altogether. Haley's considerably more rebellious than he is.
  • All Women Love Shoes: Deconstructed somewhat in "Disneyland." Gloria insists on wearing her usual very high heels despite all the walking the trip will require, and rebuffs Jay's suggestion that she at least bring another pair. Later when it's obvious that Jay was right, he asks her ("don't go all Latin on me") if part of the reason she gets angry so easily is that she's wearing such uncomfortable shoes. She admits it, and he gets her a pair of ridiculously oversized yet soft yellow slippers, which she wears for the rest of the trip. Later, Jay gets a pair of baby high heels for Lily, which her fathers had sworn never to do, but have the effect of stopping her from her sudden runs much better than the leash ... cough cough child protective tether they had been trying.
  • Aloha Hawaii A three-episode arc near the end of the first season
  • Animal Reaction Shot: In "Send in the Clowns," watch Stella when Manny announces who he's having over. She looks just as shocked as Jay.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Exploited in "Tree house"
    Phil: Luke, I'm doing this for you!
    Luke: Are you, dad? Are you?!
    Phil (on the Confession Cam): Luke really got me with that one.
    Luke (on a separate Confession Cam): Sometimes I like to say: "Are you, dad? Are you?!" because he gets all quiet for a while, and I can walk away.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: From "Slow Down Your Neighbors"
    Phil: I wish I was one of those people who thrives on living a double life; Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker, Hannah Montana.
    • In "Dance Dance Revelation", Lily is accused of biting another child; Cam and Mitchell, believing she was blamed because she has gay dads, note that straight parents raised people like Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson and Naomi Campbell.
  • Artistic License – Law: Mitch and Cameron adopted Lily from Vietnam. However, in reality Vietnam currently doesn't allow same sex couples or single parents to adopt children from there.
  • As Himself: Billy Dee Williams in "New Year's Eve."
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Phil and Luke. Sometimes Haley. It tends to run in the family.
  • Author Avatar: Luke tends to come across as this, even as The Ditz.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: So very much. Mostly Phil and Claire.
  • Badass Family: In an unconventional sense. Despite their variable quirks, differences, and frequent disagreements, they all share a strong love for one another. If push comes to shove, they're there for each other, and the adults in particular will not tolerate anyone pulling a fast one on their children.
  • Badass Santa: Technically Badass Temporary Mall Santa, but Scott from the Christmas episode still counts.
  • Batter Up: Cameron combines this with a Pre Ass Kicking One Liner when he and Mitchell mistakenly think there's a burglar in Lily's room.
  • The Beard:
    • Tracy, Mitchell's girlfriend from high school. She even names this trope in S1 Ep13, when Cameron asks if Mitchell had a beard in high school, and she replies, "You're looking at her."
    • Alex is one for her prom date, though he doesn't realize he's gay yet (he could just be Camp Straight).
    Alex: I guess I'm his beard. His pre-beard. His stubble.
  • Beard of Evil: One gets drawn on Manny while he's asleep at a slumber party. He keeps it, and sets the perpetrator's bike on fire.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: The mall Santa takes on the Christmas caroler who's been pestering Cam and invokes this one pretty much word for word, but with an appropriate seasonal twist.
    Santa: You were nice. He was naughty.
  • Best Woman: Claire is "Best Person" at Mitch and Cam's wedding, something she joyfully puns on in her after-dinner speech. Meanwhile, Cam's sister Pam is (initially) dressed identically to Claire and seems to be fulfilling the same role for Cam's side of the family, but they're never referred to collectively as either "bridesmaids" (since there's no bride) or "groomsmen" (since they're both women).
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Phil in S2 Ep22, "Good Cop, Bad Dog" where he and Claire decide to swap on being the stricter parent and the nicer one. When Alex and Haley don't clean the bathroom as he told them to, it results in him getting quite upset. "You poked the bear, girls! You poked him!"
    • Again in the fourth season's "Arrested." Haley starts taking her predicament (arrested for assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest when she accidentally landed on one as she jumped out a window fleeing a party that was being raided) seriously only when her father reminds her that he, her mother and her uncle got up at 3 a.m. and drove to college (which she'd had difficulty getting to in the first place) to bail her out of jail without even eating breakfast or hearing her say she's sorry.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Manny gets one (apparently his first) from the girl he brought back to the house at the beginning of "Party Crasher", right before both of them find out it's a surprise party for him.
  • Big Eater: Cam.
    Cameron: I got [an ice pack] from the freezer.
    Mitchell: Why do you have chocolate on your face?
    Cameron: It was under a chocolate pie.
    Mitchell: So you ate your way through it?
    Cameron: I made a judgment call, you weren't there!
  • Big Fancy House: Jay's.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family : All the characters are related. This also leads to interesting relationships like Manny technically being Luke's (step-)uncle.
    • Any time Manny refers to Claire or Mitchell as his sister or brother, they flinch briefly.
    • Lampshaded when Gloria has her baby. They spend a few moments trying to figure out what the baby's exact relation to all of them is.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Some of Gloria's lines.
  • Birthday Episode: The episode "Game Changer" focuses mostly on Phil's birthday.
    • Being the family patriarch, there've been a couple of birthday episodes focusing on Jay, and his family's collective attempt to create a good day for him.
    • One of Manny's birthdays features a realization that his mental age may have gotten in the way of his acting his actual age. He ends up having to share his fourteenth birthday with a new baby brother.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "Election Day" ends with Claire losing the election for a city council position and Haley revealing that her college rejection letters have been piling up. However, the last college wait-lists her, which her family's willing to take as a win, and the re-elected city counselor gives in to Claire's earlier request to put a stop sign in the neighborhood, which was her reason for running in the first place.
  • Book Dumb: In contrast to her underperformance in school, Haley has proven to be quite the strategist.
  • Bottle Episode: "Connection Lost", in which all the action is shown within Claire's laptop, with all the others seen through Face Time.
  • Braces of Orthodontic Overkill: In "A Diamond in the Rough", we flash back to a few months earlier when Haley woke Alex up to take an embarrassing photo of her with her headgear on that she then put on her Facebook page.
  • Breakout Character: Even critics who hate the show admit that they love Phil.
    • The gay Cameron played by a straight actor sometimes has him called this. The same occurs with the heavily accented Gloria.
    • Sarah Hyland might be a meta/actor-example, having made it in the top 50 of Maxim's Hot 100. This is twenty one places ahead of co-star Sofia Vergara, who's on her third consecutive year on the list.
  • Brick Joke: In the third season, brick jokes have become part of the norm and unlike many comedies, doesn't always explain the joke with them. It pays to pay attention.
    • In "Fizbo," Haley sets a scorpion free to stop Dylan from talking to a zoologist. At the end during her camera interview, we see the scorpion in the background on her dresser and we hear her scream over the end vanity plate.
    • Also the bike shorts make a re-appearance several episodes later despite being the focus of the initial episode it was in.
      • And they appeared again in the 2nd episode of season 3 at the end of the episode where Cam and Mitchell are working out post-juice fast.
    • In "Dance Dance Revelation", Phil gets frustrated with the constant pressure with Jay questioning his masculinity, and ends up chasing and repeatedly spraying "Oasis for Men" perfume on a clerk who gave him an unprompted sample. Then, in the ending credits:
    [Cameron ends a sympathetic phone call]
    Cameron: That was Longines, he's in a very bad place.
    Mitchell: Oh no! What happened?
    Cameron: Well, apparently, some maniac went crazy at the mall and attacked him with "Oasis for Men".
    • "Phil on Wire" has several including the traditional stinger one where Cam and Mitchell end up eating doggie treat cupcakes.
    • In "Election Day," it is revealed that Luke has been hiding mail, which includes a bill from blowing up a birdhouse in "Dude Ranch," and for the obstructed view caused by the tree house in "Treehouse."
    • In "First Days", Barkley the Dog Butler can be seen in Jay's office at work.
    • In season 5's "The Late Show," Luke refers to the cabinet almost falling on him, which happened THREE SEASONS before.
    • In "Up All Night," the kids all answer the question "What's the most annoying thing your parents say to you?" to the confessional camera. Luke say's it's "Don't talk black to me," and explains his confusion as to what that even means. Alex corrects him from off camera that it's "Don't talk back to me" and calls him an idiot. When Phil is succumbing to the anesthesia later in the episode, he slurs his words and says "Don't talk black" to Luke (prompting the question, did he just slur it that time because of the drugs, or does Phil actually mix up the phrase regularly?).
  • Book Ends: Manny Get Your Gun has this.
  • The Brainless Beauty: Heavily inverted by Gloria, who initially comes across as this but is actually smart, spirited, and very sweet.
    • When Manny beats Jay at chess, Jay is convinced that he's a chess genius. Gloria dismisses this out of hand, because she's much better than Manny at chess. She hands Jay his ass so easily that he calls off the game supposedly because continuing would leave one of them upset at losing. He reveals to the Confession Cam that he knew Gloria would win, but she hadn't realised it, and that he was really trying to save himself from losing. Cut to Gloria, who knew exactly what he was doing and was within two moves of checkmate.
    • Played straight most of the time with Haley, though she still manages to trick her parents into losing their family's contest in who can go the longest without using computer and phone technology so she could win. She also manages to fool her family into thinking she has a job as a waitress. She also was (briefly) able to teach Alex how to get popular. In short, Haley may be book dumb but she is also fairly creative and socially savvy.
    • Discussed by Claire and Gloria. Gloria feels others treat her like this... but also feels that others treat her only as this and nothing more, rather than seeing her as someone who can actually do things. Also deconstructed in the same episode in that the one person who has a reason to think this (a male character) doesn't.
  • Brainy Brunette: Alex.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Haley
    • In "Benched" Claire laments Alex turning into this when Alex wants to hang out with some friends at the mall and doesn't want Claire anywhere near her while doing so.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Gloria puts on a deliberately terrible American accent after Jay points out one too many mispronunciations.
    • In the 2nd season Valentine's episode, Jay does a spot-on impersonation of Gloria's exaggerated accent (which involves "Yay" and "Meeetch").
    • He does it again in "Disneyland"
    • Apparently imitating Gloria's accent is somewhat of a behind-the-scenes pasttime.
  • Bumbling Dad: Phil. Justified somewhat by his being allergic to many materials commonly used in home repair. He is, however, shown in "Fifteen Percent" to be competent with technology to a far greater extent than his wife or father-in-law.
    • He may be more of a deconstruction of the trope than a proper Bumbling Dad. In some ways, he's certainly bumbling. But in most ways he averts this trope - he's goofy and a manchild who is often mothered by his wife, but he has few other glaring flaws and is genuinely helpful and supportive. Although goofy and often somewhat stupid, he's not actually incompetent. He also does allow for Claire to be the disciplinarian and rule-maker the majority of the time, but it's acknowledged both by him and the narrative that it's an accepted role. When things get really difficult he's fully capable of being an authoritative presence. And while his daughters often behave as though they don't respect him, they've shown many times that they care a great deal what he thinks of them and want him to have a good opinion of them.
      • It's also a rare case where, even if you do think he's an idiot, he's not an incompetent father. He does very well in the role regardless of whether he's intelligent or not.
  • But He Sounds Handsome: Cameron invokes this trope while dressed as a clown named Fizbo.
  • Butch Lesbian: "We had initially asked one of our lesbian friends to be a surrogate. Then we figured they're already mean enough, can you imagine one of them pregnant?"
    • One of the lesbian moms of Lily's classmate Connor in the fourth-season "Schooled" episode is mostly depicted this way—while she wears her hair as long as her partner, she's a contractor who speaks with a husky voice, wears boots and takes umbrage at stereotypical assumptions about her (which nevertheless turn out to be correct) to the point that she walks out of Cam and Mitchell's apartment.
  • But Not Too Gay: The show was criticized by the gay community when Mitchell and Cameron hugged each other after a reunion at an airport, in contrast to straight couple Phil and Claire kissing. Of course, some noted that none of the couples seem overly affectionate with each other but this was a big sticking point.
    • Another big problem was the season one Valentine's Day episode, where Mitchell and Cameron were relegated to helping Manny in his own romantic subplot rather than having one of their own, like everyone else. Later rescued somewhat by them getting a more relationship-based story in the Season four Valentine's special - while that particular episode didn't feature much in the way of physical affection between the couple, it culminated in Cameron borrowing Phil's Clive Bixby persona and pretending to pick up Mitchell in the hotel bar.
    • "The Kiss" brings notice to this. The explanation given is that Mitch was never comfortable expressing affection physically in front of people and feels that when Cam does it, he's being smothering (which is suspiciously convenient).
      • Of course, that doesn't explain why we never saw them kissing inside their house before. The episode established he didn't have a problem kissing Cam when they were alone, even if they were on camera.
  • California Doubling: Averted, as the show takes place in the Los Angeles suburbs and the four times it's traveled for vacation episodes (in Hawaii, Wyoming, Palm Springs and now Australia), the episodes were actually filmed on location there.
  • Call Back: Many in the season two finale "The One That Got Away".
    • In "Leap Day", when someone proposes the Amelia's restaurant as an alternate site for Cam's party, Mitchell nixes it because of what happened between them and the owner in "Caught in the Act" the previous season.
    • The events of "Bixby's Back" are brought up by Claire's political opponent (David Cross) in a political debate a season later in "Little Bo Bleep".
    • The third-season finale, "Baby on Board" reveals that Luke hid Haley's college-acceptance letter because he didn't want her to leave. Underneath the closing credits, he shares with his parents all the other mail that he'd been hiding, most of which relates to events in other episodes that season.
    • The fifth season episode "A Hard Jay's Night" has a similar situation when they find things in Jay and Gloria's yard that Jay had buried as a way of getting rid of them. These items included Gloria's karaoke microphone.
    • In "Goodnight, Gracie", Mitch finally gets to cry 'Shame!' while pointing at the state flag in court, a manoeuvre he had wanted to use as far back as Season One's "My Funky Valentine".
  • Call Forward: Played ironically during the stinger for "Lifetime Supply". It consists of the Game Show Appearance where Phil won the title amount of razor blades. During it he talks about his in-laws' marriage as something that he admires, one that will last forever. By the show's first season they will already have been divorced for a while.
  • Call It Karma: In S1 Ep04, "The Incident" Dede, Claire and Mitch's mother and Jay's first wife, listens to Claire and Haley arguing about Dylan. She laughs and tells Claire, "Karma is a funny thing" and tells Haley that she went through the same issues with Claire and Claire's then boyfriend, Ricky.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Done notably by Phil to Jay in the Season 3 premiere, "Dude Ranch". Phil reveals to the camera that the reason for the trip is to prove to Jay that he can be a real man. Later, Jay makes a derogatory comment regarding Haley and Dylan clearly meant to apply to Claire and Phil. Later, Phil calls Jay out on it in a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
    Phil: Jay, I wanna talk to you about that son-in-law crack you made at breakfast.
    Jay: Aw, I didn’t mean anything by that.
    Phil: I think you did. I get that I wasn’t your first choice to marry Claire, but it’s been 18 years, and there hasn't been a day when I wasn't a loyal husband to your daughter and a great dad to your grandkids. So if we still got a problem now it’s your problem.
  • Camp Gay: Mitchell and Cameron play with this trope. Cameron has the attitude of Camp Gay, while Mitchell has the interests associated with Camp Gay, so while Cameron is overly emotional, uses wide gestures and talks about art, he loves football. Mitchell has the more subdued Straight Gay Attitude but used to figure skate... (Incidentally, Cameron's actor is straight, and Mitchell's is gay. And both have at least some of the same interests as their characters.)
    Mitchell: Just turn it off.
    Cameron: I can't turn it off, it's who I am.
    Mitchell: The MUSIC, Cam.
    Cameron: Oh.
    • Mitchell and Cam's friend "Pepper" Saltzman, played by Nathan Lane. Pepper is this trope.
    • While on the phone with Clair, Mitchell upsets Cam. She asks if he is crying. Mitchell admonishes her for thinking that the normal response for a gay man is to run off in tears - until he hears Cam sobbing and slamming the bedroom door.
  • Camp Straight: Jay's friend Shorty, who Mitchell initially insists is gay (to prove a point to Jay), which Gloria instantly believes.
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Mitch learns a secret about a friend, who tells him not to tell Cam because he's such a blabbermouth. Unfortunately, Mitch gives in easily and tells Cam, who in turn cannot help himself and posts it in Twitter.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Phil can't bring himself to tell Mitchell he's fired as the agency lawyer in the third-season episode "Tableau Vivant'. Doubled down since Mitchell can't bring himself to say that he doesn't really like the job and would rather quit.
  • Captain Obvious: Gloria states that, in Colombia, it is considered very bad luck for your house to burn down.
  • The Cast Show Off: One would think it would be Cameron's drumming, but an even better qualification would be Fizbo the Clown, who was created by Eric Stonestreet when he was nine.
    • Jay teaching Mitchell self defence was done for Ed O'Neill to show off his black belt level jiu-jitsu
  • Catchphrase: Jay's "Of course you did"
    • Mitchell's "There it is!" usually in reference to the punchline of running gags.
  • Caught on the Jumbotron: In one episode, Phil and Gloria kiss at a Lakers game after being caught on the Kiss Cam.
  • Celebrity Paradox: One episode has Mitchell and Cam accidentally walking into the Muppet movie which had Rico Rodriguez making a cameo. Made even stranger when the sequel stared Ty Burrell
  • Chastity Couple: Cam and Mitchell, and arguably Gloria and Jay too. This becomes more pronounced when compared to Phil and Claire who share kisses in almost every episode. However, they have begun working on averting this.
  • Character Development: Earlier in the series, Luke was portrayed as, to be blunt, an idiot. A well meaning kid, but an idiot. As the series has gone on, he's became slightly more cynical, intelligent, and crafty, eventually evolving into a pint-sized Manipulative Bastard, one that even coaches his dad on how to exploit other people.
    • Haley has started to mature, especially in season four after she was expelled from college.
    • Jay. An older gent with old/fashioned traditional ideals, he's come a long way in accepting his son's sexuality, and somewhat in allowing himself to be emotional.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The bar of soap and the sharpie in "Unplugged."
    • At the beginning of "Door to Door", Mitchell reminds Cameron that the social worker is coming for their adoption homestudy later that day. After tension over Cameron's tendency to make a mess when cooking or playing with Lily generally leads to a Crowning Moment of Funny finale where Mitchell calls Cameron on his bluff to make a mess himself by spraying whipped cream faces on himself and Cameron, and otherwise messing up their apartment, the social worker shows up at the very end of the episode.
  • Childhood Brain Damage: A few allusions are made of Luke hittig his head several times when he was younger.
  • Christmas Carolers: Santa punches an obnoxious caroler at one point.
  • Christmas Episode: The fall finale of Season 1, Ep 10, "Undeck The Halls".
    • And the fall finale of Season 3, "Express Christmas".
    • And the fall finale of Season 5, "The Old Man & the Tree"
  • Christmas Miracle: Subverted in "The Old Man and the Tree". When Cameron hears that no gifts are available for the attendees at the Christmas event for the needy that he inadvertently took Lilly to, he grabs the ones that Mitchell has bought for Pepper's "The 12 Gays of Christmas" party the couple plan to attend that evening. They are spectacularly ill-suited to the occasion.
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Claire to the point that her husband and children won't acknowledge she was right even when she has video taped evidence to prove herself.
    • Although partially they won't admit she's right because they think she usually is.
  • Closer to Earth: Claire to Phil. Sometimes Gloria to Jay but he's generally well off. To some extent, Mitchell to Cameron.
    • While Gloria is sometimes this to Jay, it should be noted that, depending on the issue at hand, it's fairly frequent that Jay is the one who's Closer to Earth.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Luke, and to a lesser extent, Phil.
    • Dylan. Oh dear lord, Dylan.
    • Phil has proven he more than deserves this title, thanks to the "Phil'sosophy", a collection of his thoughts and sayings. The episode featuring it has the rest of the cast reading from it at the end of the episode, then looking up in utter bafflement as to what they just read.
  • The Cloud Cuckoolander Was Right: During a football game he was announcing, Luke claimed Cam's team, who had 0 points, was cursed due to a kid he was bullied by. When the bully left the field to attack Luke, Cam's team got the game tying touchdown and winning kick
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Lily lets one out at a wedding, thanks to Cam not being able to stop laughing at it.
  • Cold Open: Almost every episode begins with an Establishing Shot of one of the three residences: Claire and Phil's home, Jay and Gloria's larger modernist house or Cameron and Mitchell's Mission-style apartment. The action then shifts to inside where the plot gets underway. A similar establishing shot serves as a transition to another household. The end of the opening becomes a freeze frame which another one of the families then holds as a framed picture, starting the credit sequence.
  • Comical Overreacting: Gloria and Cam have a habit of this. Especially in "Manny Get Your Gun":
    Gloria: Tell the truth, Jay. Did you put the key in my bag?
    Jay: No.
    Gloria: I won't be mad.
    Jay: In order to prove a point, I may have—
    [Gloria starts punching him]
    • Also, Cam in the same episode:
    Cam: I appreciate the gesture and I'm not proud of how I'm feeling right now, but the fact is you cheated on me.
    Mitchell: [laughs] In what way did I cheat on you?
    Cam: You cheated on me with choreography and that is the worst kind.
    Mitchell: It really isn't—
  • The Comically Serious: Mitchell on occasion, as his serious, uptight personality is contrasted by Cam's more free-spirited, dramatic tendencies.
  • Compressed Abstinence: The Dunphys have a contest to see who can go the longest without using a computer. Haley wins by making a fake cell phone out of soap to trick the others into thinking she caved in first.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: In the episode The One That Got Away, Haley and Alex's video for Jay's birthday consists of candid shots of the rest of the family during various past episodes that weren't shown onscreen.
    • Phil keeps reminding Jay of the time he asked him to fix his computer printer in later episodes.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Luke's answer to anyone's failure of accomplishment is his water gun, as both Gloria and Haley learned the hard way.
  • Cool Big Sis: Claire to Mitchell. Haley and Alex, meanwhile, are not this at all. but Claire seems to have gained this with maturity and age. When they talk about their childhood, she seems to be a typical big sister who picked on Mitchell and snubbed him when she wanted to be cool.
  • Cool Old Guy: Jay, although he would probably take offense to the term "old".
    • 85 year old next door neighbor Walt apparently plays video games
    • Also happens on a meta-level as it's been mentioned that Ed O'Neill (Jay) often helps Sofia Vergara (Gloria) with lines and jokes that are difficult to translate and understand due to language differences.
  • Confession Cam
  • Covered in Gunge: In "Snip", Claire goes to Luke's school to drop off his science project, which he'd left at home. Unbeknownst to her, he'd rigged his locker to shoot yogurt in order to get back at a classmate who'd been breaking into it. She manages both to embarrass Luke and ruin her shirt.
  • Cowboy Episode: The third season opener was a dude ranch episode.
  • Crappy Holidays: As of the middle of season four:
  • Cringe Comedy: Cameron's offensive way of talking when he gets nervous; the worst happening when he tries to pass himself off as Native American to get Lily into a high class pre-school.
    • Particularly in "Starry Night", wherein Cam has incredible foot-in-mouth syndrome towards Gloria. Here he is, stumbling to explain himself.
    Cam: So when I said brown people, I-I wasn't talking about your...uh, brown people... I was talking about people who go to a university... Um, not your people... Not that your people couldn't go to college... Okay, now I'm hearing myself saying "your people" a lot.
    • There's also the time he talks on the phone to Manny, feeding him lines to give to his love interest. To the other customers in the bakery, he sounds like an internet predator, and it doesn't help when he then clarifies "It's not what you think; I'm talking to a little boy."
    • On a similar note, when Mitchell refers to Cam as "the sexy 8 year old I fell in love with" (Cam was born on a leap day) at an amusement park.
    • Also invoked in "Run For Your Wife" when Cameron and Mitchell take Lily to a paediatrician who is Asian-American; naturally, Cameron begins panicking, and begins inserting comments of how they're raising Lily with Asian influences despite the fact their Doctor is clearly American.
    Cam: We've hung some art in her room, some Asian art. When she's ready for solid food there's a fantastic pho place right around the corner. Am I pronouncing that right, is it "fuh"? (beat) It's a soup.
    Doctor: I don't know. I'm from Denver. We don't have a lot of "fuh" there.
    • In "Schooled", Phil sneaks up on a woman he thinks is Claire in Haley's dorm room and gropes her. It turns out she's Haley's roommate. Her father isn't happy, and Haley is mortified.
    • A large chunk of the same episode is Cam and a lesbian named Pam throwing homophobic insults and stereotypes at each other
    • Jay gets one when he thinks the Hispanic wedding he's at is a quinceanera, and gives a toast before the couple's first dance thinking that they're a father and daughter. And then starts getting very confused and creeped out when the "father and daughter" get affectionate on the dance floor...
    • The entirety of Phil's sexy "Clive Bixby" persona, which crops up on more than one occasion, comes across as painfully awkward:
    Phil: I might do some high-risk work for Uncle Sam that takes me clear around the country. [...] Never did catch what you do.
    Claire: Didn't you?
    Phil: Surprising, I know. I'm usually pretty good at catching things from women in bars.
    • Mitchell humiliating one of Lily's classmates at handball in "The Wow Factor."
    • The entire scene at the Vietnamese restaurant in "The Future Dunphys."
  • Crossdresser: Phil when he falls off the stage and hurts himself during his skit at the realtors' banquet in "Spring-a-Ding Fling."
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Gloria occasionally falls into this territory and is revealed to be much tougher than she initially appears. While not all that stupid, she's usually portrayed as considerably more ditzy than the other characters.
  • Cutaway Gag: In the Season 2 finale, "See You Next Fall", Jay is talking about his Botox. He then mentions the doctor that tried to make his balance better. Cut to the Dunphy house, where Jay is trying to show Claire his new and improved balance, that is, until Phil bursts through the door and knocks him over.
  • Cute but Cacophonic: As attractive as Gloria is, her singing and shouting voices are rather grating. A neighbor once even mistook her for a noisy parrot.
  • Daddy's Girl: Claire and Jay's relationship is an aged-up version of this (though some episodes have pointed out that this has always been the case); they often share their family issues over an occasional drink, and it's clear that Jay is closer to Claire than with Mitchell. Heck, Jay is closer to Cam than he is to Mitchell due to several shared interests such as football.
    • Played with in Cam and Lily's case, where it's pretty obvious that Cam is all but rearing her up to be one.
    • To a lesser extent, Haley to Phil.
  • Dashing Hispanic: Manny's father, Javier. Manny also tries to pass himself off as one.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Gender inverted. Phil is actually very fond of Dylan (to the point where Phil was more distraught over Haley breaking up with Dylan than Haley was), but Claire dislikes him and has tried breaking him and Haley up.
    • Subverted in "Party Crasher", when Haley, following her expulsion from college six weeks into her freshman year, dates a co-worker closer to her father's age, whom Phil likes as much as her mother likes Dylan. Claire, however, guesses correctly (if randomly) that Haley is just doing it to get back at her father for being less than thrilled about her early exit from college. When she seems to have left to spend the weekend with him, Phil gives an angry speech about how he loves his daughter too much to let that happen, one Haley overhears. The hug she gives him is that episode's Crowning Momentof Heartwarming.
    • Played straight with Claire, Phil, and Jay. The Season three premiere, "Dude Ranch" reveals that this is the reason Phil treats Dylan so well, because he went through the same issues with Jay.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Alex and Mitchell
    • Gloria occasionally gets in on the act, too
    • In the first two seasons, Lily very frequently looks like she would be this if she could talk. Check out her reactions to her daddies (particularly Cam). When she finally starts to speak, this potential is realized.
      • In an early season 3 episode, Stella the dog gets one of these, too.
    • Jay, literally the granddaddy of all deadpan snarking, but what do you expect from the man who used to be Al Bundy?
  • Depending on the Writer: Alex's social life. Some episodes have either her being ostracized by her peers or her having a snobbish attitude toward them or simply being more concerned with studying and school. Other episodes show her having friends and being at least somewhat socially active. While this is possible in Real Life, especially for a teenager, what differs is how each scenario is shown.
    • Phil's intelligence/goofiness.
    • Whether Cam's family are really eccentric or it's just Mitchell being a snob.
  • Determinator: In "Someone To Watch Over Lily", Alex reveals that she hates playing cello but continues to do so because she's never quit anything in her life.
    • Jay as well. He reveals in a confessional that he put up with his first wife (Claire and Mitchell's mother) and made the marriage work as long as it did for the sake of his kids. In his eyes, he had made the choice to have kids and that meant he had the responsibility to raise them until they could handle themselves. He finishes the story by mentioning that the universe rewarded him with a big grin as Gloria asks if he would like to join her in the jacuzzi.
  • Didn't Think This Through: In "Caught In The Act" after the Dunphy kids walk in on Phil and Claire having sex, they get their parents a good lock for their door. The problem? Said lock is very loud, enough to be heard throughout the house, and basically informs the kids every time their parents are about to go at it.
    • Jay invokes this word for word after tricking a very-pregnant Gloria into agreeing never to argue or raise her voice in front of the baby (naturally, being pregnant, Gloria is always in front of the baby). Gloria gives an unnerving smile and says she's going to write down all the things she's going to scream at Jay after she gives birth.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Alex in "Strangers On a Treadmill" when she's talking on the phone to a popular girl.
  • Disaster Dominoes: A pretty epic one in "Fizbo", resulting in Luke breaking his arm. It involves a runaway scorpion, a crossbow, Cam as the titular clown, Phil's fear of clowns, a bouncy castle, and a craft table covered in beads
  • Disproportionate Retribution: S1 Ep17, "Truth Be Told" Luke calls Alex a "dork-to-dork saleswoman," for which she actually fails to come up with a comeback to. That is, at least, until she proceeds to convince him that he's actually adopted.
    • Another example is when, during a slumber party, Manny's friends doodled on his face while he was asleep. Jay suggested that Manny get even by pranking them back, and he did. How? By setting his friend's bike on fire.
    • In "Schooled", Cam sees a boy pull Lily's hair shortly after dropping her off for her first day of kindergarten. He picks the boy up and physically threatens him, resulting in a parent conference.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Pam and Susan (the lesbian moms to a boy at Lily's school) to Cam and Mitchell, respectively.
    • It works differently in both cases: Susan and Mitchell are actually very alike, while Pam and Cam are mainly linked by adhering, respectively, to a number of prevalent stereotypes about gay men and lesbians.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Near the beginning of "Hit and Run" Jay has a hard time pitching his redesign for closets his company makes to his new boss. At the end of the episode he takes the same redesign but lets Gloria pitch it. The boss changes his tune and doesn't even bat an eye to the redesign.
    • In "The Wow Factor", Claire 'accidentally' pours water onto her white shirt to distract lesbian Pam into agreeing with her against Cam. Pam points out that she knows exactly what Claire is trying to do, but she appreciates the gesture. She then says that she agrees with Claire on the matter anyway.
  • The Ditz: Haley and Luke. And, to a lesser extent, Phil and Cameron. Gloria isn't too much of this, but she's definitely portrayed as such.
    • Genius Ditz: Luke often shows signs of this. His apparent dreaminess comes over as startling curiosity. Then there's Dylan... Consider that he's able to write an Intercourse with You song about Haley that's so catchy that he sings it for her entire family with her sitting right next to him, that even though they're initially horrified, the next morning, they're all singing it to themselves.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Series 4 Valentines Special 'Heart Broken'. While witnessing Jay being extra masculine Gloria Suggestively bites a marshmallow, and begins to smoke a cigar.
    • In the stinger of "And One to Grow On", in the fifth season, Phil and Claire discuss Luke's excessive dance practice in his room in terms that suggest masturbation. The trope continues when Phil walks in on him.
  • Dragged into Drag: Luke, at the end of "Me? Jealous?". Apparently it's something Haley and Alex had both done to him more frequently when they were all younger.
  • Droste Image: The opening credits, zooming out through the families holding photos of each other (with the last one holding the final frame of the Cold Open.)
  • Dude, Not Funny!! In Universe "See You Next Fall". Mitch laughs when Cam falls into a pool, much to Cam's dismay. The rest of the family calls him out on it, until the Pritchetts when they witness Cam walk into a glass door and fall about laughing.
  • Ear Worm: In-universe, in S1 Ep04, "The Incident". Dylan sings a rather explicit song that he wrote for Haley called "In The Moonlight" to the entire family. While they're horrified, the next morning, every one of them is singing the song to themselves.
  • Elevator Failure: After Phil finally brings himself to fire Mitchell as the agency lawyer in the third-season "Tableau Vivant", Mitchell is stuck in the elevator with the doors not quite shut for some time.
  • Embarrassing First Name: According to Cam, his sister Pam's full first name is actually Pameron.
  • Emo Teen: Dylan
  • Ensemble Cast - So much so that the show has had Emmy nominations for every adult actor but all in the supporting category.
  • Entendre Failure: When Phil and Claire try to compete with Haley and Dylan in My Funky Valentine:
    Phil: Y'know, we don't have to go to Fratelli's tonight. [...] I thought you might enjoy a night at a hotel.
    Claire: [joking] I would, but would you and the kids be okay?
    Phil: I meant together
    • Promptly followed by:
      Claire: I think you're not getting any sleep tonight, so you might wanna take a nap at work today.
      Phil: I always do.
    • And again in Bixby's Back:
    Claire: You're looking handsome as ever, Clive.
    Phil: You are hot enough to cook a pizza on. (beat) In.
  • Everyone Owns A Mac: And an iPhone, and an iPad, and an entire episode celebrating the release of the iPad, and an entire episode filmed via Face Time...
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: When Mitchell and Cameron are staying at Jay's house because theirs is being fumigated, Jay leaves a book of lawyer jokes in the guest bedroom to irritate Mitchell. He cracks these kind of jokes throughout the episode, including "What's the difference between a catfish and a lawyer?".
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Some of the episodes have titles that are references to or plays on popular culture, while others have titles that simply describe the episode's plot or one of the sub-plots.
  • Extracurricular Enthusiast: Alex. She plays the cello, plays lacrosse, and has participated in a bottle-collection program to help build schools in third-world countries. Note that she doesn't do all this because she loves all the activities, but rather to pad her resume for when she has to apply for colleges.
  • Face Doodling: Happens to Manny at a sleepover in "The Incident".
  • Fake American: In-universe. Gloria's weird attempt at reducing her accent in "Halloween".
    • "Did she just get back from the dentist?"
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: Discussed by Alex in an early episode, where she asks Claire if she'd do this if Haley became pregnant.
  • Fan Disservice: Cam in bike shorts. It's lampshaded by having his groin pixelated.
  • Fanservice: Subverted in "Schooled" when, after Phil takes off the shirt Haley had not wanted him to wear because it had an embarrassing childhood picture of her on it, revealing a nicely toned upper body, she tells him to put it back on right away.
    • Played straight in "Fifteen Percent", with a scene of Claire in her underwear.
  • Fetish: Haley sends a picture of her feet to a prospective boyfriend in "Egg Drop".
  • Figure It Out Yourself: Subverted with Grace Dunphy's parting gift to her granddaughter Alex - what seems to be a faux-cryptic message ("This is a lighter") turns out to be a preamble to a much longer note, but the paper got stuck together in the Florida heat.
  • First Kiss: Manny gets what is apparently his at the beginning of "Party Crasher", just before his surprise party begins.
  • Flanderization: It began to look this way for Gloria. Her plots for the first three episodes of season 2 were about either her religion, a superstition of hers, or her ethnicity, and it looks like she's slipping into this.
    • Some fans are worried Mitch and Cam might be slipping into this too.
    • Depending on who you ask, any character not played by Ed O'Neill since the beginning of Season 2.
    • Phil is becoming so stupid that one has to wonder how he can actually function in life.
  • Forbidden Fruit: In S1 Ep 12, "Not In My House," after Claire mistakenly believes Luke has been looking at porn online, not knowing it was Phil, Phil uses that as his cover story and explains Luke's behavior to Claire using this mentality.
    Phil: Breasts are like these scary, mystical things that he's drawn to like Frodo to Mordor.
    • S3 Ep01, "Dude Ranch" has this overlap with Dating What Daddy Hates when Jay tells Claire not to try keeping Haley from seeing Dylan because it will only drive her into his arms faster.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Claire
    Claire: Your kids don’t need to know who you were before you had them. They need to know who you wish you were, and they need to try to live up to that person. They’re gonna fall short but better they fall short of the fake you, than the real you.
  • Frame-Up: Double subverted in the fifth-season episode "Spring-a-Ding Fling." Gloria accuses Lilly of having broken the glass on her phone. Lilly maintains to both Gloria and Jay that, contrary to what they believe, Joe (an infant at the time) can walk and reach high enough to have gotten to Gloria's purse. When they see Joe walk for the first time at Lilly's prompting, they believe her. Later she confesses to the camera that she actually did it and framed Joe, to the point of taking Joe's shoes off and making fake footprints in spilled baby powder.
    • But then in the show's stinger one of her dads asks her why Joe's shoes are on the wrong feet.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In Connection Lost, in The Stinger Claire quickly scans over the first sentence of Alex's college admissions essay before giving up and just texting her that she loved it. If you pause long enough to read the actual essay visible on the screen, one sentence has "I know you're not reading this, mom" inserted in it.
  • From Bad to Worse: Happens almost every episode. The season 1 finale has many examples:
    • Phil's confession that makes Claire even more upset with him
    • Claire attempting to fix the slightly broken step, which only worsens it
    • Mitchell attempting to kill the pigeon, which leaves his house in ruins
    • Invoked in the third season episode "Leap Day"
    Mitchell: It turned out that Cam's anxiety really wasn't about the party. It was about turning 40. When we realized it, that made things much worse.
    • Very typical example in "Fulgencio" during the fourth season: Phil tries to solve his kids' problems his way, by talking to the other kids (or, in Haley's case, the neighbor) they're having problems with, only to make things worse.
  • Funny Background Event: While Cam is telling off the woman at the pet-adoption center in "Bringing Up Baby", the fourth-season premiere, over her refusal to waive the usual procedures so they can console themselves with the kitten Lily wants after the failure of their adoption, their car is seen in the background, with the two giant cuddly toys they've been trying to get rid of tied to the top. Due to the motion of the vehicle, the two animals appear to be having sex. Hilarity Ensues as they try, vainly, to find a non-sexual position to tie them in for the rest of the episode.
    • In-Universe: After dropping off Luke and Manny for their first day at high school in "First Days", Phil and Gloria go out for coffee and wind up becoming extras in a reverse-mortgage ad. However, they overdo things behind the main characters and become too distracting.
    • In the episode "Fizbo," after Phil flees the ER lobby because of his fear of clowns, right when the camera is focusing on Claire in the foreground you can see him trip over a wheelchair and collapse onto the floor.
    • In "New Year's Eve" Lily spends most of the episode involved in funny background incidents stemming from Alex and Haley being too distracted by Luke having a girl in his room to watch her while babysitting. By the end of the night she's seen a coyote, drawn on the walls, and covered herself in make up.
    • In Boys Night, while Haley is insisting she's a great babysitter for Luke, Luke can be seen in the background playing with a kitchen knife.
  • Future Loser: Haley is the butt of a lot of jokes that involve this.
  • Gag Haircut: Luke tricks Gloria into giving him a mohawk in "Connection Lost". Her attempts to fix it make him look like Shemp.
  • Game Show Appearance: Phil won his lifetime supply of razors on "Smarty Pants" in "Lifetime Supply".
  • Gangsta Style: The way Gloria holds a BB gun in "Manny Get Your Gun".
  • Generation Xerox: Quite a lot. Phil and Luke are this as are Claire and Haley, and Claire has mentioned she is specifically trying to prevent this with Haley. Jay has also shown similar traits to both Claire and Mitch.
    • S1 Ep04, "The Incident", Claire and Mitch's mother, Dede, tells Haley how she went through a similar experience with Claire and Claire's former boyfriend, Ricky, that Claire is going through with Haley and Dylan, telling Claire that "Karma is a funny thing".
    • S1 Ep08, "Great Expectations" Jay knows how Haley tries to escape the house from having the same experience with Claire (and Mitchell).
    • S2 Ep03, "Earthquake", has this as one of the sub-plots. After getting into a conversation with a plumber about parenting, the plumber reveals he disliked his son because he saw his younger self in him, and this is the same with Claire and Haley.
    • In S2 Ep08, "Manny Get Your Gun", the opening scenes for all three families show Claire, Mitch, and Jay having the same opening dialogue: "Let's go let's go let's go let's gooooo"
    • S3 Ep01, "Dude Ranch" reveals that the reason Phil treats Dylan so well, despite Claire hating him, is because Phil went through the same issues with Jay and Claire.
    • S3 Ep02, "When Good Kids Go Bad" does this twice. The first is with Lily having the same possessive tendencies as Mitch, and the second is Jay having the same obsession with proving himself right as Claire which is lampshaded at the end after Jay has the same reaction Claire had earlier upon proving herself right, to which the rest of the family responds with a big "Oooohhhhhh".
    • S4 Ep14, "A Slight At the Opera". Haley's argues with Dylan near the end in much the same way as her mother argues with her own father.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In one episode, somebody calls Phil's work cell phone and, thinking that he's running an escort service selling his wife and daughter, asks if "the carpet matches the drapes". Phil, thinking he's talking about buying a house, responds accordingly.
  • Getting Hot in Here: The Dunphy's late next door neighbour Walt used to keep the temperature in house high so the meals-on-wheel lady would have to take her sweater off.
  • The Ghost: Phil's coworker, and sometime rival, Gil Thorpe (until he's actually seen in "Flip Flop", late in the fourth season).
    • Phil's mother is never seen on-screen, although she's more than once implied to be just out of shot as Phil's father Frank talks to the family via webcam. She dies off-screen the day before the Season 4 finale episode begins, without ever appearing.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Haley and Alex, different from the standard example in that neither sister is portrayed sympathetically.
    • Sometimes subverted when the girls make a show of squabbling to try and get out of doing something.
    • This was played down through the next two seasons, only to perk up again in Season 4 when Haley went to college. In "The Butler's Escape", Claire realizes she has to revive it to get Alex out of her bad mood, even if Haley has to insult Alex via Skype.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Lily's Bunny. She keeps her dads up all night crying when he gets lost on the LA Subway in "Planes, Trains and Cars".
  • Girls' Night Out Episode: Subverted in "Go Bullfrogs!". After Claire drops Luke off at a sleepover, the mother hosting it invites her to watch Gone with the Wind with all the other moms. Claire lies about not feeling well and having already seen it in order to take advantage of all her children and her husband being absent to go out with Cameron and Mitchell.
  • Gold Digger: Subverted with Gloria but who is actually a very nice person who genuinely loves Jay.
    • S1 Ep05, "Coal Digger" has this as a plot point. It's revealed Claire originally thought Gloria was a gold-digger when she started dating Jay but had come to realize Gloria's sincerity by the point the show started. Gloria wasn't aware of this until this episode, however, and Claire still has to jump in the pool to apologize.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: In the fourth season Halloween episode using a Visual Pun, Manny has a kid dressed up as a Los Angeles Angel on his left, trying to convince him to do the right thing and apologize for accidentally pulling the fire alarm, and Luke dressed up as a devil on his right trying to get him to take advantage of the fact that now the cool bullies want to hang out with him.
  • Good Is Dumb: Despite insistence from Claire that he's a rebel, Dylan is actually quite the good guy who is willing to do what it takes to ensure that Haley betters herself even if it's not best before him. And he's dumb as bricks.
  • Goth: Alex's "friend" Skyler in the fourth-season "Snip", and Alex herself during that episode.
  • Go-to Alias: Clive Bixby for Phil, Juliana for Claire.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Mr. Kleezak, the Dunphy's next door neighbor, played by Phillip Baker Hall.

    Tropes H-M 
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Normally, Gloria is a very fun and amiable person. She can also go berserk at the drop of a hat.
  • Halloween Episode: Called "Halloween", aptly enough.
  • Hates Being Touched: Mitchell note 
    • Barry, the handsome and homeless aspiring "Reiki" master in ''Slow Down Your Neighbors".
  • Happily Married: Jay and Gloria. Phil and Claire. Mitch and Cam, as of the Season 5 finale.
    • While Mitchell and Cameron are certainly happy, they're not married, not even civilly united. This is confirmed in S2 Ep 11, "Slow Down Your Neighbors", where their disgruntled landlord tells them how happy they should be that they're not allowed to marry.
  • Has Two Daddies: Lily
  • Has Two Mommies: The student who beats Lily out for the preschool spot (see Ninja Pirate Robot Zombie, below), and Connor, Lily's kindergarten classmate in "Schooled."
  • Heel Realization: Jay in "Dance Dance Revelation". Jay confronts the guy who took his parking spot and, when Jay berates the man, he says he probably didn't notice because he just had his fourteen year old dog put down and, unable to face his apartment without his only friend, he absentmindedly came to the mall to try and forget.
  • Hidden Depths: In "See You Next Fall", Haley talks Alex out of her brutally honest middle-school graduation speech by admitting that she is actually very anxious about whether she'll graduate from high school with her own class or not.
    • Jay to an extent. At first he seems like your stereotypical good ol' boy - loves football and lots of macho. But over the seasons, it's revealed he's more of a pragmatic intellectual and shows interests in astronomy, history, model building, and foreign culture among other things. Though the latter one should be self-evident given who he's married to.
  • Hide Your Pregnancy: Julie Bowen was eight months pregnant with twins during the filming of the pilot, so they hid her behind laundry baskets and other assorted things.
  • Hideous Hangover Cure: Subverted in "Bringing Up Baby." Claire offers her daughter Haley, who won't directly admit to her mother that she was drinking, a blended mix of perfectly vile ingredients on the morning after her last prom. She drinks half the glass and runs away to throw up, after which Claire admits to Alex that it was never intended as a hangover cure.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In the second-season finale, "The One That Got Away". Phil is shopping with Gloria, who has Lily in a stroller. He realizes everyone passing, particularly the men, think Gloria's his wife. Since he has seen an old college friend and romantic rival around, one he has always unsuccessfully tried to one-up, he does little to discourage the perception. But when the friend finally sees him with Gloria, he says he'd always thought Phil would end up with Claire, whom he thought was the most beautiful girl Phil ever dated.
    • In "When a Tree Falls", Alex tries to get an unflattering picture of Haley during her community service in revenge for Haley posting a photo of her in her headgear on Facebook. However, in the process she not only has her phone run over but gives Haley the opportunity to take another embarrassing photo, which gets even more likes.
    • Gil Thorp, exploiting Phil's desperate situation in selling the house at the beginning of "Flip Flop", and rubbing Phil's nose in it—only to be in exactly that situation himself at the end.
  • Hollywood Law: In the fourth-season finale, "Goodnight Gracie", set in Florida, a judge there not only lets Mitchell, a California lawyer, represent Gloria before her but just about everyone else.
  • Hollywood Nerd: Alex is a Type 2. It's a little difficult to believe any of Haley's comments about her having issues with boys when she's played by Ariel Winter.
    • S3 Ep08, "After The Fire" plays with both types. Luke and Manny are being harassed by a group of Type 1's. They stop when Alex approaches them, lets her hair down, and tells them to cut it out which they gladly do because they're infatuated with her. As she tells a disbelieving Haley, "You have your fans. I have mine. Someday, your fans are going to work for my fans."
  • Homage: To The Godfather with Cam singing "Ave Maria" at a formal wedding, intercut with Mitchell destroying the house in slow motion as he tries to kill a pigeon.
    • And then again at the end of "Fulgencio", which has Phil answer the priest's questions about his role as the baby's godfather over a montage of Luke following their plan to resolve every problem he and his own sisters had during the episode, then telling Claire "Don't ask me about my business" as he sat down at his desk in a suit and tie as the episode ended.
    • When Alex and Haley are trapped in the mall's Santa house late in "The Old Man & the Tree", the parents and kids outside surround the house and break in through the windows, in a manner clearly meant to suggest Night of the Living Dead.
  • How We Got Here: "Fizbo" uses this to its fullest possible extent.
    • "See You Next Fall" as well.
  • Hyperlink Story: The Pilot Episode shows the three families separately, each with its own plot, and only near the end reveals that they are all related to each other.
  • Hypocritical Humor: This show loves this trope. Most notable being in "Fears" after the doctor talked to Mitchell and Cameron (before leaving) about how her mother wouldn't be happy unless she was one big Asian stereotype and then proceeding to back into the garbage barrels and sideswiping their car.
    • And then in "En Garde", Haley teases Alex about knowing when fencing originated. Luke says that he thinks it's cool she knows that to which Alex just calls him a dork and looks annoyed.
    • In "Phil on Wire", Claire rebukes Alex and Haley for gossiping about a classmate: "You don't know how hard she has it. Her mother can't get through a soccer game without going through a thermos full of Chardonnay."
    • Gloria complains about how Americans see Colombians as violent: "What do they think we are ... Peruvians?" (Colombians actually do see Peruvians this way, and when a representative of a Peruvian-American group complained to ABC about this Sofia Vergara said something in Spanish that roughly translates to "get a life.")
    • Claire jokes on the phone with Mitchell about Cameron breaking down and crying when she told him he doesn't look good in bike shorts. Mitchell responds sarcastically that of course all gay men do that, only for Cameron to do just that off-camera.
    • In "Leap Day," Gloria is trying to restrain Jay when the boat captain tells the extended family and Cam & Mitchell's friends that they can't all get on the boat as the limit is 24. She reminds him that, contrary to what she'd suggested to him earlier in the episode, she likes that he is cool and rational. But when the captain refers to Jay as "grandpa" she punches him in the nose.
    • Claire to Manny: "I guess I am your stepsister now." Manny: "My mother says we must never use the word 'step.' It implies 'not real.'" Cut to Alex and Gloria—Alex: "So you're like my grandmother now?" Gloria: "Step-grandmother!"
    • One of the lesbian moms of Lily's classmate Connor in "Schooled" confronts Cam and Mitch about their stereotypical assumptions about her (that she's a vegetarian, for instance) only to have her partner point out that they're true.
      • Also the fact that she and Cam keep mocking each other for being stereotypical, when they both embody a lot of gay stereotypes themselves.
    • Cam to Gloria: "Some people really value their privacy and you have to respect that" while he's looking through Claire's bedroom.
  • I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: Subverted in Season 3's Express Christmas. While shopping at Target, Haley starts to use this technique to acquire Lily's gift. She stops when she hears him answer his phone, and realizes he's probably immune.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Apparently Gloria can do some impressive things with a BB-Gun, and can do them Gangsta Style
    Gloria: [shoots an inflatable island Manny is lounging on]
    Manny: You could have shot me!
    • In another episode, she quickdraws and casually fires a pistol one handed after being handed the gun by Claire at a shooting range. She nails the target's head between the eyes, and it's obvious she aimed for it.
  • Incessant Music Madness: Jay gives Gloria a karaoke machine, and she keeps singing off key, to Jay's dismay. He keeps trying to break it to her gently, but in the end it's Manny who snaps and yells at her to stop. In The Stinger, Jay tries out the karaoke machine, but Manny pulls the plug and warns Jay, "This won't be the last plug I pull."
  • In Love with Love: Manny
  • Insane Troll Logic: "A Slight at the Opera" features Haley and her boyfriend taking care of Lily and Baby Joe and enjoying it to the point of pretending they're an immediate family. Claire, already acting loony in much of the episode, at one point stands under a fire alarm with a lighter to set off the alarm, piss the baby off and have him throw such a fit that Haley loses all interest in having a family too soon. Doesn't really make that much sense in context either, and you know a plan is pretty bad when a five-year-old has to call you on it.
  • Insistent Terminology: "The Real Headscratcher Tee Emm."
  • Insult Comic: Jay decides to leave after David Brenner constantly makes jokes about his age at a show he and Gloria attend in "My Funky Valentine."
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Alex is constantly ridiculed by Haley for not having any friends.
    • She lampshades this in "When A Tree Falls" by admitting to the camera that she'd probably not care so much about getting back at Haley if she had more friends.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: By season 3 Luke and Mr. Slezak next door have started playing video games together. Then Mr. Slezak dies.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Claire and Phil, by their children, at the beginning of "Caught in the Act'' during the second season.
  • The Internet Is for Porn: Claire thinks Luke is looking at internet porn in "Not In My House".
  • Irrevocable Message: The email Jay sends in Gloria's name to Claire in "Caught in the Act".
  • Intercourse with You: "In the Moonlight", a song Haley's boyfriend wrote for her in S1 Ep04, "The Incident", which he then sings for the entire family.
    The stars are falling from the sky
    And you're the reason why
    The moon is shining on your face
    'Cause it finally feels it's found its place
    'Cause maybe, baby
    I just wanna do you, do you
    Do you wanna do me, do me
    Underneath the moonlight, the moonlight
    Baby, maybe, maybe I will steal you, steal you
    Just so I can feel you, feel you
    Maybe that would heal you, heal you on the inside
  • Ironic Echo: "I suggest you lose this phone number," in "A Diamond in the Rough."
    • Doubled down at the end of "Flip Flop": Phil gives Gil Thorp the same blustery speech Gil gave him over the phone earlier in the episode, now that Gil has the weaker negotiating position, and then when they realize they've sold the house Cam says to Mitchell "I told you so", which Mitchell had been saying during his Confession Cam bits in the episode.
  • Is This Thing Still On?: In "Diamond in the Rough", Mitchell and Phil have a heated text exchange about what a bad idea that a house that Cam and Claire want to buy and flip is. However, they are using the group address they used yesterday and Claire is receiving every text.
  • It's a Costume Party, I Swear: Mitchell is told by his new co-workers that dressing up for Halloween is an office tradition. He arrives at in work in a Spider-Man costume only to discover no one else is in costume. (He later learns that the two he spoke to are the only two who ever dress up.) Hilarity Ensues as he puts a suit on over the costume and then spends the rest of the day trying to get an opportunity to change out of the costume.
  • It Runs in the Family: Jay, Claire, and Mitchell have a habit of rushing everyone by shouting "Let's go!" repeatedly.
  • Jailbait Wait: Sort of. Manny meets an adult woman in an online book club who mistakenly believes he's much older than he is. After they've met, and she's lamenting about how she'll never meet the right man, he suggests they try again in ten years if they're still single.
  • Jerkass: Gil Thorpe, when we finally see him in "Flip Flop".
  • Jumping on a Grenade: Phil in "Marco Polo", jumping on a leaking can of body spray (appropiately called Sex Grenade).
  • Karma Houdini:
    • In "Regrets Only" Alex catches Haley faking having a job as a waitress, and convinces the family to have dinner at the restaurant. But she makes the mistake of gloating to Haley first, and Haley is able to fake the job until an incident erupts that she claims got her fired. And ironically, she would have inevitably been caught without Alex doing anything; she'd made a deal with her parents to earn half the payment on a car, faking it by holding onto the same sixty dollars each day, and would have been screwed when the time came to produce all the money.
    • Phil in "When Good Kids Go Bad." Phil puts Claire into a physically dangerous situation while he flirts with another woman. Phil doesn't even ask if his wife is okay, and tries to blame the situation on her. Later he jokes about it with his kids, and gets them to agree with his version of events (despite them not being there). When Claire gets videotaped evidence that supports her version of events, the rest of the family guilt her into believing she went too far to prove she was right. At no point does Phil apologize for any of his behavior, maybe as passive-aggressive retaliation for Claire's regular put-downs and condescension.
    • Jay and Gloria, rather egregiously, in "Party Crasher." When the manager at the bakery making Manny's cake refuses to let them skip past thirteen other people to the front of the line (why? Because they don't want to wait - in their defense, their cake was right there behind the counter where the cashier could have easily handed it to them) they go outside where Jay distracts a woman who just got a cake by talking to her baby while Gloria steals the cake. This isn't just underhanded, it's petty theft and against the law...yet they don't even face any repercussions, not even in the form of a hilariously inappropriate message on the cake, which it seemed to be setting us up for.
    • Haley, who cheats several times on Dylan without repercussion, even with one instance when her parents catch her but act extraordinarily casually - Phil simply reminding Claire how much she dislikes Dylan and Claire wanting to to push Haley toward the brainy guy.
  • Kidanova: Manny, at least in his own mind.
  • Kids Prefer Boxes: Luke is like this. One year, they decided to just give him a box for his birthday. Unfortunately they put it in a nice bag and he spent all day playing with the bag.
    • When Phil's dad visits and brings a dog with him, Luke ends up in the dog's cage, presumably because he was playing with it. Spoilered to save the sight gag.
  • Kitschy Local Commercial: Lily gets a part in one of these. Along with all of the usual cheesiness, this commercial is also extremely racist.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Claire in “Career Day”, Phil, while trying to talk about real estate is upstaged by his "Nemesis", Gil Thorpe. Gil later asks Claire to hire her on his company, something that Phil doesn't like. Claire decides to take the job anyway despite the fact she’s witnessed Gil belittle Phil for years. She eventually guilt trips Phil into agreeing to let her take the job. In the end she finds out just how big a jerkass Gil Thorpe is.
  • Latino Is Brown: Gloria and Manny.
  • Large Ham: Cameron, especially when he's on a juice fast. In the same scenario, even Mitchell became one.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: An interesting variation in Season 3, as Mitchell and Cameron struggle in their attempts to adopt a son or conceive via surrogate, while Gloria accidentally gets pregnant; while she'd often talked about her desire for another baby, Jay's age (already sixty-five at this point) is implied to have made them both insecure about starting a family together, and it was never even seriously brought up as an option until Gloria got pregnant anyway.
  • Leap Day: Cameron was born on it and likes to act like he's only ten years old. Technically, he's only had ten birthdays. He has still been alive forty years, making him forty years old. Mitchell tries repeatedly to explain this to him in the episode, to no avail until the end.
  • Left the Background Music On: A conversation between two characters in "Yard Sale" is punctuated by a dramatic sting of organ music. This is then revealed to be a customer testing a electronic keyboard who announces "I'll take it!"
  • Lethal Chef: Haley's attempt at cupcakes. Initially she was purposely failing to get out of actually making them, but at the end of the episode she makes a batch of cupcakes for the family. As soon as she leaves the room they call for Poison Control.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: As Alex's supposed tomboyish-ness is an Informed Ability, Alex seems to be a light feminine (cares about grades, pleasing others, wants to buy a doll in one episode) to Haley's dark feminine (more interested in guys, popularity.)
  • Literal Metaphor: In the third-season episode, "Go Bullfrogs!" Cam and Mitch debate at one point, while driving around, whether their relationship is "stuck in a rut." Later they find themselves in a situation they have to drive out of in a hurry, and Mitch says "we're stuck in a rut" which Cam takes as restarting the argument until Mitch says that this time he means it literally—the car is stuck.
    • In the fourth-season premiere, "Bringing Up Baby", Cam and Mitchell are sitting on their sofa mulling their failed second adoption, Mitchell tells Cam that they have to talk about the elephant in the room. He agrees, and the camera pulls back to show a large toy elephant on one of the chairs, apparently received as a baby gift. For good measure, the gag repeats itself after one of them mentions the 800-pound gorilla.
  • Literary Allusion Title: S01E02: The Bicycle Thief
  • Little Miss Snarker: Deconstructed in "Fulgencio", when Cameron and Mitchell wonder if Lily is becoming this as a result of overhearing their snarky remarks to each other, and resolve to set a better example, even at the cost of a much-desired party invite. At the end it turns out she's picking it up from Claire, who drives her to dance classes.
  • Looks Like Shes Enjoying It: Phil doesn't want to go with Claire to the mall where they give free massages because unbeknownst to her she makes sounds like she orgasms when she gets a massage. Her father Jay learns this the hard way when he accompanies her and a crowd of people gather.
  • Loophole Abuse: Jay and Gloria agree not to yell in front of their new baby, and Jay promptly tells Gloria about her terrible singing, since she's still pregnant and technically can't yell at all until it comes out. Except she goes into Tranquil Fury mode and informs him she'll be writing down everything she wants to yell right now, and he'll be getting it at the proper time.
  • Magic Feather: Played straight in "Treehouse," when Mitchell gives Jay a little pill to cure his shyness about salsa dancing. Turns out it's chewable baby aspirin.
  • Magical Queer: Played with in Cameron's urge to solve anyone's personal problem that he might stumble across (to the point of hosting a wedding). Mitchell is not happy about it at all.
    (when Mitch is attempting to build a playhouse for Lily, badly) "If an accident does happen, I hope he kills me. Because I don't think I would be a very inspiring disabled person."
    • Subverted in "Treehouse", when a woman to whom he's pretended to be straight in order to win a bet that he could get her phone number later tells him she knew all along that he was gay; she just wanted to have a gay male friend to confide in. He isn't at all flattered by this, and tells her as much.
  • Malaproper: Gloria (due sometimes to her accent) and also Haley.
  • Man Child: Phil
  • Mathematician's Answer: In the season 3 premiere, Dylan goes missing in the wilderness near Jackson Hole. When Haley gets within shouting distance of him, he's characteristically unhelpful.
    Haley: Dylan! Where are you?
    Dylan: Wyoming!
  • May-December Romance: Jay and Gloria. One episode has Manny accidentally going on a date with an adult though nothing serious happened.
  • Meganekko: Alex (although in the third-season finale, "Baby on Board", she makes a point of attending her first prom without her glasses).
  • Mean Boss: Subverted in the fifth-season episode "Spring-a-Ding Fling." Mitchell takes a new job at a legal clinic run by a former law-school classmate of his. Throughout the episode a number of things he sees and overhears make him think he's made a serious mistake and that she's this trope. When he finally confronts her on this in front of everyone else, every single thing turns out to be Not What It Looks Like.
  • Metaphorgotten: "No, see, this is exactly why we sweep things under the rug. So people don't get hurt." "Well, yeah, until you sweep too much under the rug. Then you got a lumpy rug. Creates a tripping hazard. Open yourself up to lawsuits. Boy, you can go a really long time without blinking."
    • In "Earthquake", "You know what they say, sometimes, when God closes a door...he closes it so hard your wife can't get out."
    • In "Come Fly With Me", "The thing about me and Jay, is our relationship’s always been stuck in that primal place where it started. You know, he’s the old silverback protecting his females. Then along comes this younger, stronger gorilla swinging in, beating his chest. You know naturally, the ape-ladies come running, presenting their nice scarlet behinds. Papa ape wants to stop all that, but he can’t. You know, that’s life. I’m not the enemy. The enemy is poachers."
  • Mind Your Step: The broken step in the Dunphy house is a running gag.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Gloria is the Ms. Fanservice. Claire seems to fit this role a little less often.
    • Desiree in "The Bicycle Thief", at least to Phil.
    • Haley manages to fill this role occasionally, especially in S2 Ep06, "Halloween."
    • In-universe. S3 Ep 08, "After The Fire" has Alex as this to a group of teenage nerds just by undoing her ponytail. As she tells a stunned Haley, "You have your fans. I have mine. Someday, your fans are going to work for my fans."
  • Mistaken for Cheating: S1 Ep17, "Truth Be Told" has an interesting inversion. Phil has been keeping in touch with his old girlfriend for a while, and she comes to visit him. It's revealed she wants to have an affair with him and thought the whole reason he had been talking with her was to do so.
    • Played with in the Season 1 finale, "Family Portrait". Phil believes that Gloria and Claire think he's cheating after Gloria kisses him at a basketball game when the kiss cam lands on them, and Phil and Manny receive some coincidental and unfortunately worded texts from Claire and Luke. It's more a case of "mistake for mistaken for cheating".
    • S2 Ep09, "Mother Tucker" has this happen with Haley and Dylan. Even though they'd broken up earlier in the episode she gets extremely angry when she sees him in a restaurant with who she thinks is another girl due to the sweater on the other chair (which belongs to Phil).
    • "The Butler's Escape" during the fourth season has Jay decide to spend the night in a hotel when a business trip to San Francisco, for which he was planning to spend the night, ends early. He had been looking forward to a night without Gloria's pregnancy-induced snoring. Unbeknownst to him, Manny sees him at the hotel and lets his mother know. She calls him, pretending to be in San Francisco, only to slap him as he gets off the elevator, believing he has been having an affair.
  • Mistaken for Gay: S3 ep06, "Go Bullfrogs" has Claire hanging out with a French friend of Mitch and Cam whom she mistakenly assumes is gay simply because he's their friend. When she gets drunk later in the episode she... says and does some things a married woman shouldn't do in front of another man, or woman, for that matter.
    • In the fourth season's "Mistery Date," Phil meets a guy (played by Matthew Broderick) at the gym and decides to have a "boys night out" with him. The guy promptly calls Cam and says that he just met the cutest guy; he spends the entire night thinking that it's a date.
    • Averted in "When a Tree Falls"; the scene where the store security guard approaches Claire and Gloria seems to be setting us up for them being taken for a lesbian couple, but it doesn't happen.
  • Mistaken for Pedophile: Happens on two separate occasions to Cam and Mitchell - Cam when he was trying to help Manny win over a classmate, Mitchell when reassuring Cam (whose birthday falls on Feb 29) that he's still the "same eight year-old [he] fell in love with".
  • Mistaken for Racist: Phil wears a shirt that says "If you ain't white you ain't right." This is because he was on Team White at family camp. He is later confused as to why an African-American taxi driver seems rather disgruntled while unloading their bags.
    • In "Starry Night" Cameron is talking about Columbia and Brown University and a lawyer friend of Mitchell's, and says, "I wish that tart would go back to Columbia and take her weird, little Brown friend with her," right as Gloria walks by.
  • Monster Clown: In Season 1 Phil reveals he has a severe clown phobia that may stem from his finding a dead clown as a child.
  • Mood Whiplash: An episode goes from a serious discussion and realization of girls growing up quickly to Manny trying to impress a girl by slowly driving Mitch's car.
    • "Best Men" has a tense moment as Manny storms off angrily upstairs followed by Jay sprinting to the kitchen because "Ooo! I love [Manny's] tiramisu!"
  • Mockumentary
    • As the series progresses, only the interview segments count, as much of the other action seem to take place without any cameras present (for instance, different angles of the same scene reveal there are no cameras around).
      • Although even now, you can still see the characters doing takes to the camera, particularly when they are embarrassed by something (usually their spouse or child).
      • The talking heads are inconsistent too - they're always filmed in the same location, but often a character will express a point of view that they don't endorse by the time they get back home to do a talking head. Of course, Rule of Funny is in place so it doesn't really matter.
    • The original pilot script featured the man behind the camera as a character, which was dropped.
  • Momma's Boy:
    • Mitchell.
    Cameron: There's a fish in nature that swims around with its babies in its mouth. That fish would look at Mitchell's relationship with his mother and say, "That's messed up."
    • S3 Ep08, "After The Fire," shows that this also applies to Manny and Gloria.
    • Cameron too.
    Cameron: She raised four kids, two barns, and a whole lot o' hell.
    Cameron: And that song would be called "The Greatest Woman That Ever Lived".
  • Mother Daughter Threesome: Dylan has a dream about this involving Claire and Haley in "Chirp". Later on, when Haley gets sick and is lying in bed with Claire when Dylan calls Haley tells him she's in bed with her mother and then says, "Stop freaking out, It's not coming true."
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • In-universe, very frequently with Phil.
    • Everything's in slow motion and overlapped with Cam singing "Ave Maria" when Mitchell tries to deal with a pigeon in the house, unwittingly wrecking the living room.
  • Mustache Vandalism: After Phil sees one of the advertisments for his real estate agency defaced with a mustache drawn on his picture, he thinks he would look good with a mustache and decides to grow one.
  • My Beloved Smother: Gloria can be this to Manny sometimes. Especially notable in "The Old Wagon" when she tries to compete with Manny's female friend:
    [Gloria tries to guilt Manny into spending time with her instead]
    Gloria: Ok! Sue me! I am a Colombian mother. I'm not gonna let him make a mistake that's going to affect him for the rest of my life! (beat) ...his life!

    Tropes N-S 
  • Nerds Are Sexy: In S3 Ep08, "After The Fire", Haley is flabbergasted that a group of nerdy teenage boys worship Alex:
    Alex:You have your fans...I have my mine. Someday, your fans are going to work for my fans.
  • Never My Fault: Claire and Mitchell blame literally everything that happens on Jay to the point where it has reached insane troll logic levels. For example one time the kids walked in on Claire and Phil having sex, Claire eventually found away to blame the incident on Jay.
    • This mentality is heavily lampshaded by Phil and Cam
  • New Year Has Come: "New Year's Eve", in the fourth season.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: In a season two episode where Cam and Mitch think that being a gay couple with an Asian baby will get them into a good pre-school only to get beat out by...
    Cam: Disabled interracial lesbians with an African kicker!
    Mitch: Did not see that one coming.
  • Noodle Incident: Invoked in The Old Wagon when Mitchell reminisces with Jay:
    Mitchell: Remember how much fun we had when we built that bookshelf?
    Jay: [to camera] That was my Vietnam. And I was in Vietnam.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted by "Leap Day", where Phil, Luke and Manny step gingerly around Claire, Haley and Alex when they realize it's that time of the month for all three of them.
  • Nonverbal Miscommunication: In the fourth-season episode "Snip", Mitch has conspired with his and Cam's friend Longines to have a conversation while at the latter's clothing boutique that will lead to Cam taking a job there, since Mitch wants him to but knows better than to suggest directly. It almost works, but as Cam is within earshot in the changing room trying on a shirt, another employee blabs about the whole scheme, completely oblivious to Longines and Mitch's hand signals to shut up, and Cam storms out in a huff.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Manny has been shown crushing on Haley and Alex, and Luke has been shown crushing on Gloria.
    • In the Season 1 finale, "Family Portrait" Alex and Manny are at basketball game, while the kiss-cam on the scoreboard is going around.
    Manny: Wouldn't it be embarrassing if they put the camera on us and we had to kiss?
    Alex: We're related.
    Manny: Not by blood.
    Alex: Touch me, and there will be blood
  • Not What It Looks Like: In "Our Children, Ourselves", Mitchell sees an old girlfriend (Mary Lynn Rajskub), with whom he once had a tryst before he came out, in the mall accompanied by what appears to be a child with red hair. He frets that without realizing it he fathered a child by her, and Cameron persuades him to buy a gift and meet the boy. However, when they finally do, it turns out that he's a little person who's married to the former girlfriend. This sets up more Cringe Comedy when the gift Cameron and Mitchell bought turns out to be a Little Slugger-brand baseball glove.
    • The entire subplot with Mitchell in "Spring-a-Ding Fling" (See Mean Boss, above).
  • Oedipus Complex: While they can manage to be civil, in general, Jay and Mitchell do not get along. This has gotten better in later episodes.
  • Of Course I'm Not A Virgin: Early in "Virgin Territory", Alex laughs out loud when she mistakes her father's words "Haley's aversion" for "Haley's a virgin", which leads Phil to the realization that his oldest daughter isn't.
  • Omnidisciplinary Lawyer: In the fourth-season finale, "Goodnight Gracie", Mitchell, who is shown has having primarily practiced corporate or civil law at home in California, accompanies Gloria to court in Florida, where she's answering an old charge of having run a brothel. He argues for her, and winds up representing just about everyone else in court facing petty crime and traffic charges. In another state.
  • Once a Season: The Season Finale episodes have all revolved in part around Jay's birthday.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: This show's favorite trope. Notable examples include:
    • Claire tries to convince Haley to break up with Dylan; her roundabout way of bringing it up makes Haley think Claire is contemplating divorce.
    • A pair of vacation acquaintances have been told that Jay is going senile; when they ask Manny about it, he thinks they're talking about Jay's golf skills.
    • Phil and Claire are shaken about their kids walking in on them having sex. Gloria assumes its about the mean spirited e-mail she accidentally sent to Claire.
    • Phil paints an ad for his retail business on the family van, with an unfortunate setup making it look like an escort service. This leads to a call about someone wanting the little one if the carpet matches the drapes.
    • Another example is Right Behind Me, below.
    • Claire tells Luke that she and Phil are "splitting up", by which she means taking two different cars to Manny's birthday party. Luke immediately asks to go with Phil, which understandably bothers Claire when she realizes he thought they were getting divorced.
    • In the stinger of "Egg Drop", Alex (in one of her rare scenes without her glasses) thinks she's having a deep sisterly chat with Haley about how she treated her mother in the episode. It turns out that Haley is talking to a boy on her phone.
    • Phil sells a house in "Aunt Mommy" when the buyers, a gay couple who are friends of Cam and Mitchell, think Phil's phone conversation with Claire is with his office, leading them to believe the house will sell quickly if they pass.
    • In "Mistery Date", Phil's conversation about the football game with Matthew Broderick's character, who is gay and thinks Phil is, is interpreted by his guest as continued seduction.
    • In "Suddenly, Last Summer", Jay and Manny's conversation about the latter possibly changing his mind about going to Colombia and visiting his relatives there for a month continues as they stand in the middle of a line of gay couples waiting to get marriage licenses (see Reality Subtext on the Trivia page), where it sounds as if they're planning to get married.
    • In "Spring-a-Ding Fling," Mitchell overhears one of his new coworkers talking about someone's horrible behavior and thinks he's talking about his new boss, one of many signs that lead him to believe he's made a mistake coming to work for her. At the end of the episode it turns out the man was merely rehearsing a closing argument.
  • One Head Taller: Dylan and Haley, almost to Huge Guy, Tiny Girl extents.
  • One-Liner, Name... One-Liner: Lampshaded;
    Mitchell: You love scrapbooking.
    Cameron: Do I, Mitchell? Do I? [exits]
    Mitchell: No, stop. Don't do the double question thing to prove a point. I hate it when people do that.
    Cameron: [holding baby Lily around the door, speaking falsetto] Do you, Mitchell? Do you?
    Mitchell: Lily!
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. There are two secondary characters named Pam, which becomes more confusing since they're both primarily connected to Cameron's story-lines and are deliberately named to echo him: one Pam is his sister, the other is the lesbian mom to a boy at Lily's school who is basically Cam's Distaff Counterpart.
    • Although apparently "Pam" stands for different things in both cases. When Cam calls his sister by her full first name (seemingly in all seriousness) it's Pameron. Mitchell is the only one who seems to think it's weird.
  • Only Sane Man: Even though she's much younger, Lily appears to realize how insane everyone else in her adopted extended family is.
    • Alex sometimes acts like this.
    • Mitchell thinks he's this for Cam's side of the family. Whether that's truly the case or he's being a bit of a snob Depends on the Writer.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Lampshaded when Phil admits this as he explains to the camera why he's working with Mitchell to frustrate Claire and Cameron's house-flipping scheme in "A Diamond in the Rough" rather than being his usual ex-college cheerleader self.
    • At the beginning of "Best Men", Haley compliments Claire on a pair of boots she's wearing, and furthermore tells her mother she had guessed right as to which girl from her high school class would be the first to get pregnant. Claire is dumbstruck by this sudden display of a positive attitude, and (with Phil's help) concludes that Haley is finally growing up.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: Frequently, the scenery and props are orange/blue as are the clothes of the cast.
  • Overly Long Name: Jay's biggest competition in the closet industry is Closets Closets Closets Closets Closets.
  • Overprotective Dad: Cameron; when Mitchell attempts to stop Lily crying by ferberizing her in "up All Night", he literally ends up wrestling Cameron to the ground to stop him nursing Lily every time she cries.
  • Papa Wolf: Cameron, where Lily is concerned.
    • "It's go time!!"
    • Comes up again in "Slow Down Your Neighbors" as Cameron's first reaction to potential trouble is "Let me grab my bat." Suffice to say, disregard Cameron at your own peril.
    • Jay, as well; don't endanger Manny, mess with Mitchell or his grandkids....
    • For that matter, Cam's dad. When he comes to visit, he and Jay's Papa Wolf tendencies cause them to dislike each other since they both view their respective son as the husband of the relationship and the other the wife. Eventually, this fact causes them to drop their antagonism as they bond over how Mitch and Cam's relationship doesn't really translate into what they know/grew up with and how they're both willing to support their children even if they don't always understand them.
    • Phil shows an unexpected aggressive side when a man around his own age that Haley works with starts dating her. Claire has to keep him in in from beating him up:
    Phil: I'm gonna fight him. I'm gonna fight him up real good.
  • Parental Hypocrisy: Claire has a rebellious past (including being driven home by the police in her underwear) despite reprimanding Hayley for similar behavior, though Claire justifies this as trying to prevent Hayley from making the same mistakes as her.
  • Parenting the Husband: Phil and Claire.
    • To a lesser extent, Mitchell to Cam.
  • The Parent Produced Project: Narrowly averted in "Starry Night" when Haley needs to bake some cupcakes for school and tricks her mother into making them by pretending to be incompetent in the kitchen. At the end of the episode, Claire catches on to the trickery and dumps the freshly baked cupcakes in the bin; telling Haley that now she has seen how it's done, she can do it herself. The ending subverts the trope, when everyone tries Haley's cupcakes and they're so terrible that Claire looks for the number for Poison Control.
    • Inverted in another episode where the Dunphy parents decide NOT to help their kids for a change, since the kids have grown to take it for granted that the grownups will do all the work.
    • Subverted by the third-season episode "Egg Drop". At the end Luke and Manny admit they manipulated Claire and Jay into doing their projects for them.
  • Photo Booth Montage: Luke and Manny, in the stinger of "Mistery Date."
  • Playing Both Sides: In "The Last Walt", Haley gets Gloria to let her have a pool party at their house while she and Jay are out by telling her her uncle will chaperone. When it's actually time for the party, Haley tells Manny he's the chaperone (It backfires somewhat when Manny takes that role seriously, averting a Wild Teen Party).
  • Playing Sick: Cameron feigns a back injury after brunch at the Dunphys in "Virgin Territory" so he can search for a Tupperware bowl that hasn't been returned to him.
    • Raced for between Cam and Claire, when both want to get away from Jay's New Year plans. Claire is faster on the draw.
  • Porn Stash: Parodied on "Connection Lost". Claire has a file marked porn on her laptop, but it turns out to be a Pinterest board titled "Decoration Porn".
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: When Cameron and Mitchell think that there's a man in Lily's bedroom, Cameron immediately grabs a baseball bat and says, "It's go time..."
  • Precious Puppies: Stella, from Season 2 Episode 22 onwards.
  • Priceless Ming Vase: Jay's vintage Apollo 13 model in "ClosetCon '13".
  • Primal Scene: In "Caught In the Act" the Dunphy kids walk in on their parents having sex.
  • Product Placement: Maybe. The show dedicated an entire episode to Phil's birthday quest for an iPad. Even though the episode aired two days before the launch of the iPad, all parties concerned swear no money or product changed hands over the placement.
    Phil: The iPad is being released on MY birthday! It's like God and Steve Jobs got together to say 'Happy Birthday, Phil!'
    • The show got this again in season 3, when Cameron and Mitchell went to see a violent movie, only to accidentally end up in a theater showing The Muppets (despite that movie not actually being out yet). Despite Disney producing the film (although Modern Family itself is made by 20th Century Fox rather than Disney-owned ABC), and Eric Stonestreet and Rico Rodriguez having cameos in it, the creators swear Disney did not pay them to promote the film note .
    • A definite product placement in the episode "Express Christmas", Target is mentioned by name and its logo is prominently shown in the shopping scene. And unlike the iPad episode, money definitely changed hands as Target received a promotional credit.
    • The episode "Send Out the Clowns" was the first new episode to air after Oreo's 100th Birthday. Briefly Phil takes some time out to talk to Luke about how to open and eat an Oreo. As with the Muppets example above, an Oreo commercial aired at the first commercial break.
    • Most of the "Disneyland" episode takes place at that attraction, owned by ABC's parent company. And once again a themed commercial appeared within the program, this time for Cars World, a new attraction in Disney World. The episode itself averts this, however, as it contains several quips about the long wait times and amount of walking involved in the park, and also pays tribute mostly to older attractions like the Dapper Dans and Hall of Presidents.
    • "The Wow Factor" has a plotline where Jay decides to take Fulgencio to a showing of Skyfall instead of his baby class. We see the film's ad graphics in the background, hear part of it as Jay watches, and a woman says she lost interest after Daniel Craig took off his shirt. Yet there was nothing in the episode's credits (perhaps because the film itself had come out a year beforehand).
    • "The Feud" has one of the show's rare Take That's that also doubles as one of these, when Phil says, in response to someone else's question, "I always win! Except with Time Warner Cable!" In Real Life Ty Burrell, who plays Phil, does voiceovers in ads for Verizon's FiOs ... one of TWC's competitors.
    • "Connection Lost" takes place entirely on Claire's Mac Book, and she uses pretty much every basic apple feature included - messaging, Face Time, Safari web browser, iCloud, Find My iPhone, etc. Again, no money changed hands with apple in this episode.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: In "Express Christmas", Phil tases a frozen game hen for emphasis after failing spectacularly to get a turkey and a baseball card for Jay.
    Phil: Merry! Freaking! Christmas!
  • Put on a Bus: Dylan takes a job in Jackson Hole in the season 3 premiere.
    • College, at least to some degree.
    • The Bus Came Back: Dylan returned in "Disneyland" at the end of season 3.
  • Reality Ensues: In the fourth season's "Arrested", Haley, six weeks into her freshman year of college, jumps out a window to flee a party that the police have raided. She lands on a policeman, injuring him, and is charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. After her parents bail her out of jail, she is required to appear before a college disciplinary board and is expelled, with the provision that she can reapply next year.
    • Conveniently, this allowed the show to bring her back home so she doesn't have to appear only on Skype chats.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Alex plans on giving this to her classmates as her valedictorian speech at her grade school graduation but decides not to at the last second.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Any given pair among the main cast (whether married, siblings, or step-cousins), though sometimes the roles are switched.
    • Lampshaded in "Punkin Chunkin" which explicitly divides the family members into the Dreamers (Red Oni) and the Realists (Blue Oni).
  • Retcon: A couple of minor ones:
    • In a Season 1 episode, Jay claims he met Gloria by making small-talk at a mutual friend's wedding. From Season 2 onward, it's established that they met by chance in a diner.
    • Phil's mother is referred to as Sarah in Season 1; the next time her name is mentioned, in Season 4, she's called Gracie.
  • Right Behind Me: Cameron makes disparaging comments about Ivy League schools Columbia and Brown at a family event. Gloria (from Colombia) overhears and misinterprets. Cameron tries to explain himself. Hilarity Ensues.
    • At the end of "Leap Day", Mitchell tells Cameron, who's been depressed about turning 40 and keeps saying it's only his tenth birthday, that "you're still the same 8-year-old I fell in love with" and then turns around to see a mother behind him hastily grab her son's arm and take him away.
    • Also happens in "Mother's Day" when Gloria is telling Claire that the poems Manny writes for her aren't very good only to discover Manny standing behind her.
    • In "Snip," Joux, Longines's employee at the boutique, blabs about his boss and Mitch's covert plan to manipulate Cam into taking a part-time job there, ignoring their desperate hand signals and finding out that Cam was in a nearby changing room putting on a shirt.
  • Ring... Ring... CRUNCH: The smoke alarm variant. In "Chirp", Phil spends the entire episode trying to track down a smoke detector that is making an annoying chirping sound. He eventually becomes so frustrated that he starts smashing all the smoke detectors in the house.
  • Room Shuffle: A wonderful one in "Las Vegas", across a connected three-bedroom hotel suite. A subplot about Jay being jealous of the "Platinum Plus" suite may have been an homage to Frasier, which shares a few of Modern Family's writer and had several classic Room Shuffle episodes.
  • Rube Goldberg Device: Luke and Manny set one up in the Dunphy kitchen where picking up a cookie causes a carton of milk to spill in order to get Lily in trouble. Instead Cameron picks up the cookie and slips on the puddle of spilled milk on the floor.
  • Running Gag:
    • "We have got to fix that step."
      • Fixed for about two seconds in Season Two;
      Phil: Seriously, I just fixed that!
    • Phil's crush on Gloria.
    Phil: "I got Gloria."
    • It seemingly ends in "The One That Got Away", where he realizes how lucky he is to have Claire and catches her instead.
    • Gloria doesn't know the English word for "helicopter".
    "How you say, the takatakatakataka."
    (Talking about Phil's receptionist)
    Luke: One time, she gave me a Woody.
    Claire: Sweet J-
    Luke: She remembered he's my favorite character from Toy Story.
    Claire: ...she did.
    • Mitchell really hates birds.
    • Manny's fear of butterflies.
    • Luke's distrust of the police.
    • Luke's distaste for Lily:
    Mitchell: I could see the disappointment in Lily's eyes.
    Luke: Like there's any emotion in those eyes.
    • The Dunphys' bad luck with making signs in general, and Phil's ads in particular.
    • Blaming raccoons for random mischief they don't want to confess to.
    • Manny and burgundy dinner jackets.
    • Gloria speaking of her home country of Colombia as a Wretched Hive run by cartels:
    Gloria: This car is so beautiful! In Colombia, if you didn't have a car like this, you couldn't call yourself a drug lord!
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Cameron, generally when Lily is in trouble:
    Operator: Sir, please tell your wife to relax. Everything's going to be ok.
    Mitchell: That's a man.
    Operator: Really?
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Phil and Jay; Cam and Mitchell, at least comparatively. Manny and Luke sometimes fall into this.
  • Sequel Episode: In "Bixby's Back", the second-season Valentine's Day Episode, Phil and Claire decide to ditch a boring restaurant by resuming the same roles they played in the first-season V-day ep, "My Funky Valentine".
  • Serious Business:
    • In "Leap Day," it seems like the show exists in some bizarre world where February 29th of a leap year is a national holiday, complete with no school or work.
    • Somewhat Justified in that the leap day is specifically big in the Dunphy household for personal, philosophical reasons, and Mitch took the day off from work because it's his partner's birthday.
    • Jay gets this way about closets. Some of it is justified - he is the head of a major closet chain after all - but he can still get out of hand when it comes to the apparently intense competition.
  • Shaking Her Hair Loose: In "After the Fire", Alex undoes her ponytail and shakes her hair loose in front of a group of older nerds who have crushes on her before she stops them from bullying Luke and Manny.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Alex, occasionally. Easy to do for Type 2 Hollywood Nerds.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Scott, the mall Santa that Mitch and Cam accidentally get fired in "Undeck The Halls".
  • Shout-Out: Maybe Mitchell and Cameron, in reference to Cameron Mitchell.
    • Let's not forget Alex and Haley.
    • Jay's repeated "it's not fair" after his ebook reader is broken is a Shout-Out to The Twilight Zone episode "Time Enough At Last."
    • Lampshaded by Phil when Dylan is playing his iPhone outside Haley's window in a scene clearly referencing Say Anything. Dylan has apparently never heard of this movie.
      • In "When A Tree Falls," Jay later refers to Phil having done the same thing to Claire. but can't remember the name of the movie.
    • Mitchell destroying the house undercut by Cameron singing at a wedding is a parody of The Godfather.
      • Later referenced even more directly when Phil is made the godfather of Jay and Gloria's baby, while Luke is going around fixing his and his sisters' problems on Phil's orders.
    • There are a couple to Angela Lansbury early in season two, as well as Phil's "Good times she wrote" in "The Old Wagon".
    • Minutes after Jay makes a Jaws joke about Gloria's ultrasound in "Snip", he watches her trying to get her usual clothing on over her bump and says "You're gonna need a bigger belt."
      • Another Jaws shout-out occurs in "Princess Party", where scenes of Alex playing the Jaws theme on her cello are intercut with scenes of Dede entering the Dunphy house and sneaking up on Claire to surprise her.
    • Phil falls over on a motorcycle and gets his leg trapped, then records a message like in 127 Hours.
    • In "A Diamond in the Rough," Mitchell takes a call from Phil, whom he's doublecrossed over the house-flipping scheme so that Phil will have to be the one to kill it, while petting a heavy white cat on his lap a la Blofeld.
    • In "ClosetCon '13", Phil accidentally breaks Jay's model of the Apollo 13 rocket. The attempt to fix it parody the movie Apollo 13.
    • In "iSpy", Hayley takes a picture of Claire glancing enviously at Gloria's cleavage. The photo is a recreation of a famous photo of Sophia Loren doing the same to Jayne Mansfield.
    • In "Spring-a-Ding Fling," when Lily claims Joe can walk and that's how he, not Lilly, accidentally broke the glass on Gloria's phone (in reality she's framing him) Gloria says "You have ways of making him walk?"
  • Series Continuity Error: In "Arrested", Haley is expelled from college and returns home. She's curiously absent from the next episode, "Mistery Date", and the only mention of her is when her mother says she gets emails from Haley about her nails, implying Haley's still at college or that the episodes were aired outside of the intended sequence.
  • Shipper on Deck: Phil for Haley and Dylan, right from the get-go. Claire is not nearly so enthusiastic, though the rest of the family warm to him eventually to varying extents.
    • Later, both Phil and Claire (and just about everyone else) for Haley and Andy.
  • Significant Reference Date: The episode Leap Day aired Feb 29, 2012.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis:
    • Luke begins to see Lily as this.
    • Phil has rival real estate agent Gil Thorpe.
  • Skeleton Key Card: Gloria opening the locker in "When Good Kids Go Bad".
  • Slasher Smile: Claire is horrified to learn that she gets one whenever she talks about death, and it causes some problems with the friends of her recently dead neighbor. "Please, I only just found out my face does this!"
  • So Bad, It's Good: Invoked; Phil and Claire love to watch B-movies.
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: The infant twins who originally played Lily were replaced by four year old Aubrey Anderson-Emmons for season 3, due to their discomfort on the set. Less so than most cases of this since she only aged about six months.
    • Perhaps handwaved due to the real life time difference between seasons, and later mitigated by the Time Skip of Gloria's first trimester.
  • Sorry, I'm Gay: Completely inverted in "Treehouse". Cameron bets Mitchell and Longines that he can get an attractive woman at the bar to at least give him her phone number. The inversion is compounded when you know that Eric Stonestreet is straight in real life.
  • So Unfunny It's Funny: Phil's (lack of) sense of humor.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In the Season 1 finale, Mitchell tries to get rid of a pigeon, only for the scene to swap to slow motion, and become inter-cut with Cam singing Ave Maria.
  • Spicy Latina: Gloria, natch.
  • Split Screen: The opening shot of "The Late Show."
  • Stacy's Mom: "Send Out the Clowns" made it official for Gloria, as Manny's new "friend" was only interested in her.
    • Invoked, almost to the point of lampshading, by Phil in "Party Crasher" when he recalls his platonic relationship with his "friend Stacy's mom ... Mrs. Robinson" while he was in high school.
  • Status Quo Is God: Haley ends up back in the Dunphy household no more than a couple episodes into her being at college due to getting arrested for assaulting a police officer and underage drinking.
  • Standardized Sitcom Housing: The Dunphy house
  • Stern Teacher: Lily's teacher in season 6. Cam and Mitchell mistake her for a Sadist Teacher and try and get Lily moved to what they think is a class with a Cool Teacher. Lily points out that the cool teachers method means the students don't actually learn anything as shown by her friend who thinks mixing blue and yellow makes the colour blellow.
  • The Stinger: Often during the credits instead of after, but the same concept. Sometimes pertains to the plot but oftentimes is just an isolated joke (such as Lily being dressed as Carmen Miranda).
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Phil and Luke often understand each other's whimsical thought processes or draw the same conclusions that nobody else does.
  • "Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder: "Strangers On a Treadmill". Mitchell even references the movie by name and suggests using the movie's plot as a solution for him and Claire to break bad news to their significant others. And much like the movie one party doesn't go through with it.
  • Straw Vulcan: In "Lifetime Supply", Jay and Manny go the horse track with Manny's father, Javier (Benjamin Bratt). Jay chooses his horses based on the information in the Daily Racing Form. Javier bets on a horse because "I looked him in the eyes, and he told me this would be his day". Guess who wins? To add insult to injury, Jay chooses a horse this way and it wins ... only to be disqualified.
  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix: Happens to Phil after a horrifically awkward speech about how much he loves sex with Claire. "Some sick bastard autotuned me."
  • Surprise Party: An attempt to throw one for Manny was a disaster for two completely unrelated reasons. First, Manny, thinking the house would be empty, had a girl he liked come over so they could have their First Kiss. The girl was understandably enraged to find out how many people saw the kiss. Then Gloria went into labor, so Manny's little brother was born with the same birthday as Manny.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Alex, frequently.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Cam, in "The Wow Factor", admits to the camera that he gets his way on the house he and Claire are remodeling by proposing something more lavish than he really wants so she'll settle for the latter, which he calls "Trojan Horsing". Later, he correctly guesses Claire's counterstrategy of drowning her argument in meaningless numbers when she accidentally gives him the quantity "forty-twelve" of something. Claire then accuses him of what he's been doing, producing this exchange.
    Cam: I can't believe you would accuse me of Trojan-horsing you.
    Claire: You actually had a name for it?

    Tropes T-Z 
  • Take That: Phil saying "I always win! Except with Time Warner Cable" in "The Feud" (also a Product Placement; see above).
  • Talking in Your Dreams: Gloria gets upset because Jay is shouting "Baby" in his sleep, making her think that he's dreaming of another woman, since she doesn't like being called "baby". Jay explains that he was actually dreaming of their baby Joe about to fall from a ledge. He confesses to the camera that he was actually dreaming of their dog Stella.
  • Teen Pregnancy: In "Regrets Only" Haley lies to her parents about being a waitress at a restaurant, so when they have dinner at her restaurant, she has to fake the job, which she does by getting a table out of view of her family's table and orders whatever the family has ordered. When her server gets suspicious of how much she's ordering, she uses being pregnant as an excuse.
  • That Came Out Wrong: In one Valentine's Day episode, Phil demonstrates his ability to tie a knot in a cherry stem with his tongue. He unfortunately follows it up by saying "I can tie any kind of knot. It's like I've got a sailor in my mouth".
  • Throwing Out The Script: Season 2 finale has an inversion: a sincere speech (Alex's mean-spirited valedictorian speech) gets thrown out in favor of a bunch of lies.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!:
    Mitchell(after the apparent reconciliation of his mother w/ Gloria): Okay, you see? We're all gonna move past this because of me, who's not a Momma's Boy but is a caring person with wisdom and emotional insights, so make a note, bitches!
  • Too Much Information: Dede, talking to Mitchell and Claire, her children: "Anyway, until I'm past this whole wedding debacle, I can't be intimate with [Chaz, the man she's moving in with]. We do things to each other; we use our hands..."
    • Essentially the entire plot of "Caught in the Act"
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Alex and Haley, however, while Haley's girly girl is definitely the case, Alex's tomboy is mostly only implied, with the aspects of it, such as her being a lacrosse player, only being mentioned and not shown.
    • Also, lesser example with Gloria and Claire, as Gloria occasionally shows signs of being a closeted tomboy.
  • Totally Radical: Part of Phil's "cool dad" schtick.
  • Transparent Closet: Alex's prom date in "Baby on Board."
    Alex: (to camera) Yeah, my bad-boy prom date is gay. But he doesn't know it yet.
  • Trophy Wife: Gloria is a surprisingly sympathetic example. And while Jay does recognize that she's something of one, far more often than not, it's shown he truly loves her as a person at the end of the day and she him. And if not through his interactions with her, then it's through Jay's relationship with Manny.
    • Lampshaded in "Arrested", when Jay notes that Gloria's pregnancy has finally led Dede to see her as not a trophy but a wife.
  • Twerp Sweating: Done unintentionally by Phil to Dylan in S1 Ep03, "Come Fly With Me". Dylan is sitting (uncomfortably) on the couch with Phil, waiting for Haley, watching baseball. Phil makes a comment about one of the players being "stuck at second base forever, and thinking about trying to steal third, which is just a terrible idea" then turns to him and asks how things are going with Haley. Claire, in the background, seems pleased to see Dylan squirm awkwardly.
  • Twofer Token Minority: More than two. Mitchell and Cameron want to get Lily into an exclusive preschool and figure that they're shoo-ins because she's an adopted Vietnamese girl with two gay dads. They get beaten by an interracial lesbian couple, one of whom is Indian and disabled, with an adopted African baby.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: In "New Year's Eve", Claire and Phil plan to see in the new year by having sex in a secluded hot spring. Things do not go according to plan.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Jay and Gloria; also, Mitchell and Cameron, as Dede is only all too eager to point out.
  • The Unfavorite: Played with in regards to Claire, Mitch, and their parents. Claire is the unfavorite to Gloria and Dede, and is much closer to Jay, while Mitch is the unfavorite to Jay and is much closer with Gloria and Dede.
  • Universal Driver's License: Averted in "Express Christmas". Cameron insists that having grown up on a farm and knowing how to drive heavy equipment like tractors gives him expertise in driving a rented moving truck, but it grows apparent that it does not.
  • Uranus Is Showing: Averted in the episode Starry Night, Mitchell got sprayed by a skunk while star gazing with Manny and Jay. Any other eleven-year-old would made fun of him with a reference to Uranus, but what did Manny say?
    Manny: Hey, Jay, is that Venus? Because I can smell the clouds of pure sulfuric acid from here!.
  • Vacation Episode: To Hawaii.
    • In "New Year's Eve," the adults in the series go to Palm Springs for the night.
  • Vignette Episode: The pilot seems to be one of these, until the reveal at the end.
  • Visual Pun: In an episode where Phil is insecure about getting a vasectomy, he sits down on a bench advertising his realty business in a way in which the sign appears to say "NOT A REAL MAN"
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: Cameron and Mitch spend all of "Suddenly Last Summer" trying to propose to each other, only to end the episode by doing so in unison on the fly.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: Near the end of "Snip", after Manny has told Gloria she can't deny that she looks pregnant despite her insistence on wearing her usual clothes, her sweater suddenly pops open and her tight pants rip. When we next see her she's wearing a maternity dress.
  • Waxing Lyrical: In "See You Next Fall" Haley tells Alex that the best way to give a speech is to use song lyrics and to use the lines "don't stop believin'" and "get this party started".
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Phil to Jay.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Claire occasionally feels this way about Gloria.
    • However, the show overall actually presents an Aversion of this trope, since even though Gloria is the same age as her step-kids she's shown to be far more involved and caring than the woman who raised them. For example, Gloria walks Mitchell down the aisle at his wedding when Dede was a no-show.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Manny, to the point a woman online mistook him for an older guy. Alex believes she's this, but she is actually very immature.
  • Wham Episode: The third season finale "Baby on Board" ends with Gloria revealing she's pregnant.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: In "Heart Broken", Mitchell has too many cocktails at a "Lonely Hearts" party he and Cam threw for their single friends. He wakes up the next morning to find that he has dyed the cat pink, stolen the neighbour's Christmas decorations and invited Dylan to live with them. It actually turns out that Cam did that last one.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Phil and clowns.
    • Mitchell and mice and birds.
    • And Manny and butterflies.
  • Who Will Take the Kids?: Mitchell and Cameron go through this is one episode, working out who will get custody of Lily if anything happens to them and testing out various members of the extended family by leaving Lily with them for a day.
  • Wild Teen Party: Averted in "The Last Walt", as Manny takes his role as chaperone seriously.
  • Women Drivers: Gloria and Haley. Plus Cameron and Mitchell's Asian doctor.
    • That last one is more Asian Drivers. The entire rest of Cam and Mitchell's story that episode involved Cameron unintentionally attributing Asian stereotypes to the doctor, only for her to subvert them.
  • World of Snark