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Series / Modern Family

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One big (straight, gay, multi-cultural, traditional) happy family.note 
"Family is family. Whether it's the one you start out with, the one you end up with, or the family that you gain along the way."
Gloria Delgado-Pritchett

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

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. They frequently 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 Mockumentary format popularized by The Office, but uses it to offer a poignant and honest portrayal of contemporary family life. It also tackles various aspects of modern-day living, including gay marriage, homophobia, adoption, race and prejudice.

Premiering in 2009, Modern Family ran for 11 seasons from September 2009 until April 2020.

This series features examples of:

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    Tropes A-G 
  • Accidental Athlete:
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Accidental Pervert: In "Three Turkeys", Manny accidentally touches Haley innapropriately. Haley begins to believe Manny still has the hots for her. When she forgives him near the end of the episode, Manny is holding Haley's underwear (which was mixed in from the wash).
  • A-Cup Angst:
    • In "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.
  • Addictive Foreign Soap Opera: "Fuego y Hielo" (Fire and Ice), which even Jay gets hooked on despite mocking it.
  • Adoptive Peer Parent: Gloria, of the stepmother variety. She's actually 14 months younger than Claire. In real life, Sofia Vergara has a son in his twenties, so it's both a partial Actor Allusion and a serious case of Older Than They Look for Gloria.
  • 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.
    • Their gay friends being oddly named is a Running Gag. At one point a character introduces himself as "Joe" and Mitchell asks, "Just Joe?". It's spelled "Jeoux."
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: All the parents, especially Phil and Cam.
  • Ambiguous Criminal History: Gloria has supposedly been deported twice and when she danced with her father, "there wasn't a dry eye in the cartel."
  • An Aesop: Most episodes have one.
  • Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better
    • Gil Thorpe to Phil
    • Also to Phil, Luke in "Spring Break"
  • 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).
  • Agent Mulder: Gloria is a believer in the paranormal. Strangely enough, Phil, for all that he is otherwise a Cloudcuckoolander, is the Agent Scully in this plotline, due to his being a stage magician with a skepticism for all things mystical or paranormal.
  • Agony of the Feet: Gloria, wearing high heels in Disneyland, although she refuses to admit it.
  • All Elections Are Serious Business: Appears in Season 8 when Luke and Manny both run for class president, with their respective parents treating the campaign as a serious ordeal. Justified as Luke is running because he desperately needs an extracurricular activity to put on his college application. Furthermore, their parents were largely motivated by their rivalry with each other.
  • 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.
  • Almost Kiss: Haley and Andy almost kiss in "Phil's Sexy, Sexy House, but Mitch and Cam walk in.
    • Attempted twice in "White Christmas," but Phil walked in on them.
  • 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 . he looks like an ace made attracted to him , but he's a nice guy . 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 (and reverses) the trope altogether . Haley's considerably more rebellious than he is and several times he treated him badly .
  • 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.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Although he's The Casanova and Likes Older Women, Luke is always very open to intimacy with other guys in the later seasons. Some of it can be blamed on him struggling with social cues, but who can blame him when one of the guys is Special Guest Star David Beckham?
  • Amusing Injuries: In "The Big Guns", Cam is grooming Lily to be a clown like he is. Mitchell doesn't approve, so Cam tries to change his mind by showing how funny Lily can be. Unfortunately for Cam, Lily proves this by repeatedly causing him physical injury much to Mitchell's amusement. In the end, Lily reveals she doesn't like being a clown and was trying to make Cam back off on the idea.
  • "Anger Is Healthy" Aesop: In "Clean Out Your Junk Drawer", Jay finally loses his temper in a primal therapy session and releases all of his pent-up rage and sadness. After telling everyone how much he loved his dad but could never show it due to being constantly invalidated and told to never express sadness, he breaks down in sadness and admits that he feels better about expressing his anger and sadness.
  • 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:
  • The Artifact: The talking head interviews. Originally the show was gonna be a Mockumentary, but in the end they were only there to track the characters thoughts.
  • 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.
    • Mitchell is a practicing attorney in California, but has no problem defending clients in court (with zero notice, even) in Florida. Gloria also suggests he defend her in an unspecified case in Texas, too. In reality, he would need to be licensed by the state bar association in Florida before he could defend clients in court.
    • While it is discussed, ultimately nobody has any problem with Mitchell, a specialist in environmental law, appearing to defend Gloria in criminal court.
  • As Himself: Billy Dee Williams in "New Year's Eve."
  • Ass Shove: In "We Need To Talk About Lily", Phil shows Bill his "Wear Chair", an invention which, due to him wearing it wrong, ends up sticking a chair leg right up his butt.
  • 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.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: So very much. Mostly Phil and Claire.
  • Badge Gag: In "New Kids On The Block:
    Mitchell: Truth is, I have been looking for an oppurtunity to show off my new badge. Even the most hardened criminals shudder when they get a gander... [drops badge] Please don't be scratched!
  • Badass Santa: Technically Badass Temporary Mall Santa, but Scott from the Christmas episode still counts.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Some episodes end with a voiceover narration from one character that seems to sum up the episodes but it turns out they're just reading something that was brought up earlier in the episode. Examples include Jay reading Manny's poem to Brenda Feldman, and Jay again reading the introduction to the patented length-tinator Manny bought
    • One Episode sees Mitchell and Cameron take Alex and Manny to an art exhibition, commenting on how they are looking forward to no having to dumb things down like they do around the rest of the family. However Cam soon realizes that without them as a buffer, he becomes the dumb one, particularly when the exhibit they had been going to (and he had done research on) had already closed so they went to a different one, and thus makes and excuse to leave. Shortly afterwards Mitchell realizes that without Cam he becomes the dumb one, and also makes an excuse to leave, after which Manny realizes without Mitchell he can't keep up with Alex and make his own excuse to leave. Once the 4 reunite they suggest that they go back to the exhibit, only for Alex to hastily suggest otherwise, implying she'd encountered someone that made her feel dumb, cut to one of the interview shots, where Alex confesses she had gotten tired of dumbing down for the others.
    • "What's the difference between a catfish and a lawyer? One's a bottom-feeding mud dweller. The other's a fish."
    • When the women of the family attend a women's march and get a flat tire, a female mechanic approaches them and offers to help. While she's changing the tire, she mentions that her grandmother ran the first female-owned auto shop in Los Angeles. An impressed Alex muses that there must have been a lot of prejudice back then. The mechanic admits that there was, but eventually her grandmother started fixing cars for Irish people.
  • Barely-Changed Dub Name: Fulgencio was changed to Fugilio in the French dub.
  • 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 "Fifteen Percent", 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.
  • Bedmate Reveal: Alex comes home from school. Because the others weren't aware that she was coming home, Dylan was sleeping in her bed. Alex is horrified when she turns around to find her sister's boyfriend next to her.
  • Best Friend: Andy is this to Haley, being the only relationship that developed from a friendship. Unlike her other relationships, Andy didn't view Haley as a trophy to be won, but as a person struggling to find her way in need of a friend. Likewise, Haley loved Andy just for him, not how handsome he was.
  • Best Friends-in-Law: Because the family as a whole is so close, this becomes true in a couple of situations. It's most obvious with Phil and Mitchell, Claire and Cam: in both cases, they frequently spend time with each other independent of the spouse/sibling that brought them together.
    • Phil and Cam are also shown to be good friends, though whether they're technically brothers-in-law is a matter of opinion.
    • Averted with Phil and Jay (though Phil clearly wishes it wasn't) and everyone and DeDe. Played Straight by Jay and Cam, though - in fact, Jay's relationship with Cam often seems better than with either Mitchell or Phil.
    • One of the reasons that Phil has a hard-core case of Shipper on Deck for Haley and Andy is clearly that Andy would basically be his dream son-in-law because of their shared interests and similar personalities.
  • 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 "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.
    • Phil yet again when he charges at Rainer and knocks him to the ground, after he makes several inappropriate comments to Phil and Claire about what he plans to do to their daughter.
  • The B Grade: Alex frequently worries whenever her grades are just the teeniest bit under 100%.
  • 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.
    • Haley and Andy finally get one at the end of "Phil's Sexy, Sexy House".
  • 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, 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.
    • Also Lampshaded is the family's dysfunctional ways:
      Claire: Phil thought it'd be a good idea if he spent the day with a happy, functional family. We couldn't find one so he's coming with us.
  • Big Sister Bully: Hayley was one to Alex in the show's early days, before developing a much softer side towards her as she matured into an adult later in the series.
    • Claire was apparently this to Mitchell in their childhood; Cameron has Pam.
  • Big Storm Episode: "The Storm".
  • Bilingual Bonus: Some of Gloria's lines.
  • Birds of a Feather: Phil and Andy's friendship stems from this, as they have practically the same personality and interests.
  • Birthday Episode: Impressively for an ensemble cast, all twelve main characters have celebrated a birthday at some point, though it's not always the focus of the episode. (Mitchell, Claire, and Gloria have never had a birthday episode as such, though Mitchell's birthday takes place during one episode, and plans for Claire's and Gloria's upcoming birthdays have a minor impact on the plot of two episodes.)
    • Being the family patriarch, Jay has had the most birthday episodes: the "Airport 2010"/"Hawaii" double episode, "The One That Got Away", "Bringing Up Baby", and "Grill Interrupted". Notably, his birthday celebrations usually begin or end a season, as a good reason to bring the whole family together for a single story line.
    • Phil's birthday is the focus of "Game Changer".
    • "Fizbo" details Phil and Claire's attempts to give Luke a birthday that's not overshadowed by Thanksgiving taking place the same week. "Three Turkeys" is a Thanksgiving-themed episode that uses Luke's upcoming birthday as a minor plot point.
    • Manny's birthday is celebrated in "Manny Get Your Gun", "Party Crasher", and "And One To Grow On". The latter two centre around Manny sharing the same birthday as his baby brother Joe, who is the titular "Party Crasher" and is born at the end of that episode.
    • Alex's 16th birthday sparks the events of "Under Pressure".
    • Lily's 2nd birthday is celebrated in "Princess Party" and she has a party for her 8th in "The Storm."
    • Cam's tenth or 40th birthday, depending on how you count it, takes place on "Leap Day".
    • "Haley's 21st Birthday" is pretty self-explanatory.
    • Mitchell's birthday happens on the same day as "Connection Lost", though it bears only a minor relation to the main plot of the episode.
    • Gloria has a surprise birthday party thrown for her in "The Long Honeymoon", though the surprise is that it's happening a week before her actual birthday.
    • Alex and Mitchell discuss what to buy Claire for her upcoming birthday in "iSpy".
    • In the Season 10 finale, "A Year of Birthdays," the episode takes place throughout one year to feature stories taking place on the birthdays of numerous characters, right down to Poppy & George, whose parents are Haley & Dylan.
  • 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.
    • "Baby on Board" ends with Mitch and Cam being deprived of adopting another child, as well as the reveal that Gloria is pregnant.
    • The series finale sees much of the family moving far away from each other: the Tucker-Pritchetts permanently move to Missouri, Haley and Dylan move out of the Dunphy house with their kids, Alex is going to be staying in Switzerland for work, Luke moves to Oregon for college, Manny is going to see the world with his biological father and Phil and Claire are going on a cross-country trip with their new RV. All are sad at going their separate ways, but also recognize they're moving towards brighter futures and it's not as if they can't visit each other.
  • Bland-Name Product: In the finale, Cam mentions having to get to a “Güber” ride, and Alex immediately lampshades this, confusingly asking “Did he just say…?”
  • Book Dumb:
    • In contrast to her underperformance in school, Haley has proven to be quite the strategist. Alex tells her she's actually pretty smart in "My Hero."
    • Luke does even worse at school than Haley, but he has been shown to be very clever and resourceful.
    • Lampshaded at one point when Alex marvels at Haley's cleverness and starts urging her to put more efforts into her schoolwork, only for Haley to roll her eyes and tell Alex to stop pestering her. At which point Luke says, "Yeah, she's always telling me to 'live up to my potential'"".
  • Book Ends: Each couple's first scene from the first episode is mirrored in their last scene of the last episode.
    • Jay and Gloria's first scene is Gloria cheering on Manny playing soccer as Jay struggles to get up from his folding chair. Their last scene is both of them cheering on Joe playing soccer as they both struggle to get up.
    • Phil and Claire's first scene is them desperately trying to plan their children's vacations. Their last scene is them choosing to wing their cross-country road trip now that their children have left the nest.
    • Mitchell and Cam's first scene is them eating cream puffs on a plane with Lily, their newly adopted Asian baby. Their last scene is them eating cream puffs on a plane with Lily and Rex, their newly adopted Asian baby.
  • Bottle Episode: "Connection Lost", in which all the action is shown within Claire's laptop, with all the others seen through Face Time.
    • Done frequently, with the family often being at Jay and Gloria's for the whole episode.
  • 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.
  • 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 "Go Bullfrogs", Mitch and Cam notice a woman wearing a giant hat and wonders when did those come back. Later in the episode, Gloria says Manny's birthday gift for her is a giant hat, and also wonders when did those come back
    • 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?).
    • The door-lock that the Dunphy children gave to Phil and Claire
  • The Brainless Beauty:
    • Gloria complains that people see her as one, though she most cetainly isn't.
    • Haley is decidedly book dumb and makes a staggering number of stupid comments, but she is occasionally capable of creative and savvy manuevering.
  • Brainy Brunette: Alex.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: 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.
    • Both Haley and Alex show this initially, however through Character Development, they have emerged as selfless, considerate adults, especially Haley.
  • Breakfast in Bed: Alex, Haley, and Luke decide to make their parents breakfast in bed to celebrate their wedding anniversary, and then the kids accidentally walk in on their parents having sex.
  • Bridal Carry: Phil urges Andy to hold Haley like this, much to their aversion.
  • 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 pastime.
    • Andy sometimes does this, further highlighting his adorable ways. Haley isn't a fan, though.
  • Bumbling Dad: Phil is sweet, good natured and fundamentally a good, loving father. He's also a goofy manchild who routinely makes things more difficult for his wife and can be relied on to say or do something patently ridiculous in every episode.
  • …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: This was one of the first shows to have a gay couple as main characters, and the creators purposely wrote Mitch and Cam as though they were a straight couple with a baby. As noted below, Cam and Mitch became something of a Chastity Couple compared to other relationships on the show. This was considered fairly progressive when the show debuted, but by the end of its run the relative lack of affection (let alone sexual energy) between Mitch and Cam was a major source of criticism.
  • 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.
    • "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". Come back again in "Patriot Games", with Mitchell's sign being 'Shame'.
    • In "Integrity," many props from previous seasons are brought back, including Lily's princess castle and Mitch and Cam's decorative glass bowl and expensive white sofa.
    • In "Patriot Games", Gloria was excited to become an American citizen so that she could serve on a jury. In "The Verdict", she gets that opportunity.
    • In "Double Click", Family Camp is mentioned again.
    • In "A Tale of Three Cities", Jay double-clicking, Lily using Southern words and Claire smiling when she talks about death is shown again.
    • "Pig Moon Rising" again references Haley not understanding the "we regret to inform you..." line from college applications from season 3, Mitch doing troga (yoga on a treadmill) from season 2, and Lily being named after Cam's pet Lily from season 3.
    • Luke is shown to get his head stuck in a banister again.
    • Alex persuading Claire to let Ben go on vacation with them in the season nine premiere is almost identical to when Haley persuaded Claire to let Dylan with them on vacation in the season three premiere, almost exactly 6 years ago.
    • The first words in the pilot are said by Claire: "Kids, breakfast!" The season premiere starts with Claire saying those exact same words.
    • Cam seeing the firetruck and then saying that "it seems to be going down our street," only to discover that their kitchen was burned down, is exactly how Mitch finds the kitchen burned again 3 episodes later.
    • In "Ten Years Later", it features a flashback of Jay and Gloria's wedding that was previously discussed in "The Incident", and ends with the family singing a song that was also featured in that same episode. It also references Cam hogging the spotlight with his drumming, that was shown also in "Travels with Scout."
    • "Dear Beloved Family" has the Dunphy kids discovering that Phil created a goodbye video when he was in a dangerous situation. One such situation is when he was trapped in a port-a-potty, which occurred in the episode "Moon Landing" 9 years prior. Another one was his trip to the wilderness in "Tough Love."
    • In "A Hard Jay's Night," Gloria's neighbour is looking less sketchy than it once was. In season 9's "In Your Head," her neighbourhood is now fully gentrified.
  • 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.
    • Another case occurs in "Leap Day". We get to see part of Cam's previous birthday, that dates from before Lily's arrival due to happening on the titular day. Cam, to show how dissatified he is with the simple movie night at home Mitchell thought he wanted, picks up the phone and tells him he's "cancelling their baby".
  • Call It Karma:
    • In "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.
    • In the Disneyland episode Jay explains he was ready to leave DeDe but decided to keep the family together until Claire and Mitch were out of the house. Gloria then calls off-camera if Jay wants to join her in the jacuzzi. Jay smiles at the camera and says, "The universe rewarded me."
  • 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.
      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.
    • Of course, despite this, immediately after this episode Phil reverts back to constantly requiring Jay's approval.
    • Mitch also does this to Jay in "Message Received", calling him out for being uncomfortable with Mitch and Cam's wedding, ultimately leading to Mitch uninviting Jay from the wedding.
  • 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.)
    • In "Good Cop Bad Dog," Mitch tells the camera that the only gay cliche he allows himself is loving Lady Gaga. Then he immediately uncrosses his legs.
    • When introducing Lily to the family Cam holds her up ala The Lion King with "Circle of Life" blasting in the background.
      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 Claire, 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.
    • When Mitchell and Cameron find out Haley is pregnant, Haley prevents this by telling Cam to tell her a secret she'd spill if he spilled hers.
  • 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.
  • Casting Gag: Two of the show's most recurring characters- Andy and Sal- are played by Adam Devine and Elizabeth Banks, who also co-starred in Pitch Perfect and its sequel Pitch Perfect 2 together. Like the franchise, their characters do not interact on screen.
  • 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
    • Alex singing shows off Ariel Winter's singing voice.
    • Phil falling over and generally getting into sticky situations allows for Ty Burrell to demonstrate his impeccable physical comedy skills.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Jay's "Of course you did"
    • Mitchell's "There it is!" usually in reference to the punchline of running gags.
    • Phil sometimes says: "Come on, Phil!" to himself.
    • "What's the plan, Phil?" and variations of that are said.
  • 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. note  Made even stranger when the sequel starred Ty Burrell.
    • The show makes a reference to Hamilton several years after its creator Lin-Manuel Miranda had a guest appearance.
    • Mitch and Cam reference Ice Age: Collision Course, which features the voices of Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Adam Devine.
  • Chastity Couple: Cam and Mitchell, and arguably Gloria and Jay too. This becomes more pronounced when compared to Phil and Claire, whose sex life was rather exhaustively documented.
  • 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. Furthermore, through her developing feelings and relationship with Andy, she has become a more rounded, and kinder individual. She has immensely matured from that selfish, vapid, bratty teenager she was earlier.
    • 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.
    • When he was just The Ghost, Javier was depicted as a standard deadbeat dad note  After he actually started appearing, he came off as more of a Loveable Rogue with some Straw Vulcan trait and a love for adventure, but he clearly would do anything to please his son, and the idea of him dismissing Manny for his own selfish pursuits seems highly improbable.
    • Phil has developed from a stereotypical Bumbling Dad into a well-rounded, kind, loving father, who clearly loves and adores his kids.
    • Mitchell initially was very cold and dismissive towards his family, constantly being the wet blanket on his family's more idealistic dreams. However, he has developed into a more rounded character, being a nicer and more relatable individual.
  • Cheek Copy: Jay 3D prints his butt.
  • 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 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.
    • In "The Alliance", the food, magazine and movie Gloria, Cam and Phil give to their respective partners all play an important role at the end of the episode.
  • Childhood Brain Damage: A few allusions are made of Luke hitting 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"
    • And the fall finale of Season 7, "White Christmas."
    • And the fall finale of Season 10, “Stuck In a Moment.”
  • 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.
    • In "Stuck In a Moment", this trope is discussed between Phil and Claire.
  • Closer to Earth: 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.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: 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.
    • There have also been more than one occasion where Clare has pointed out some of Phil's less than bright ideas for inventions, such as "shower snacks".
  • The Cloudcuckoolander 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 quite often, 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.
  • Continuity Nod: Phil keeps reminding Jay of the time he asked him to fix his computer printer in later episodes.
    • Luke got his head stuck in a banister, just like he did in The Pilot episode.
  • 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.
    • In the Season 7 episode "I Don't Know How She Does It," Cam & Mitchell are perplexed at their ostracization at a wedding. It turns out Lily has been sabotaging them because of their embarrassing dancing & is willing to accept her punishment. Her dads punish her with their embarrassing dancing.
  • 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.
    • Haley and Alex have emerged into this, with them being genuinely kind and supportive to each other.
  • 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.
  • Coordinated Clothes: In "Good Grief", each of the three main couples have matching Halloween costumes: Claire and Phil as a spider and a fly, Mitch and Cam as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (with Lily as a Buckingham Palace guard), and Jay and Gloria as Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe.
  • Couch Gag: The picture that appears in the Dunphy picture frame in the intro, which is a still frame from the episode's opening moments.
  • Confession Cam: Each character gets to sit solo in front of the camera for a few seconds.
  • 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 to both embarrass Luke and ruin her shirt.
  • Cowboy Episode: The third season opener was a dude ranch episode.
  • Crappy Holidays: As of season eleven:
    • Seven Halloween episodes ("Halloween", "Open House of Horrors","Halloween 3: Awesome Land", "Halloween 4: The Revenge of Rod Skyhook", "It's a Great Pumpkin, Phil Dunphy" , "Good Grief" and "The Last Halloween.")
    • Eight Thanksgiving episodes ( "Fizbo", "Punkin Chunkin", "Three Turkeys", "Phil's Sexy, Sexy House", "Thanksgiving Jamboree" , "Winner, Winner, Turkey Dinner", "Did The Chicken Cross the Road?" and "The Last Thanksgiving")
    • Six Christmas episodes ("Undeck the Halls", "Express Christmas", "The Old Man and The Tree", "White Christmas" , “Stuck In a Moment” and "The Last Christmas".)
    • Two New Year's Day episodes ("New Year's Eve" and "Ringmaster Keifth.")
    • Six Valentine's Day episodes ("My Funky Valentine", its second-season sequel, "Bixby's Back", "Heart Broken", "Valentine's Day 4: Twisted Sister" , "Do You Believe in Magic" and "Paris".)
    • Seven vacation episodes ("Hawaii", "Dude Ranch", "Disneyland", "New Years Eve", "Australia", "A Tale of Three Cities" and "Lake Life".)
    • One Mother's Day episode ("Mother's Day")
    • One Father's Day episode ("A Tale of Three Cities")
    • Two 4th of July episodes ("Summer Lovin'" & "I Love a Parade," with the latter giving more focus to the holiday.)
    • One Easter Episode ("I'm Going to Miss This").
  • 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."
    • Luke also dresses like Gloria to lure the drone that keeps spying on them in "Closet, You'll Love it!"
  • 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.
    • Cam is this as well. The emotional, dramatic one is also "farm strong" when it comes to it. He terrifies a bystander threatening Mitchell once while dressed like a clown.
  • Cry into Chest: Haley to Claire in "Election Day" regarding being rejected from her list of colleges.
    • Alex BIG TIME to Claire in "Under Pressure", with her bawling over hearing that Claire realises the pressure she is under.
    • Manny to Jay at the end of "Marco Polo" after Manny's girlfriend dumps him.
  • Curse Cut Short: Manny delivers an Atomic F-Bomb in "Double Click" when he tries to help Jay double click on an iPad. The scene cuts away before we actually hear it to him confessing it was the first time he used the "F" word in his life.
  • 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.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Jay is not shy about expressing his love for his dog Stella, to put it mildly.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Cam to Connor in "Schooled".
    Cam: If you ever put your hands on my daughter again, I will string you up by your feet, run you up the flagpole and let the birds peck out your eyes.
  • 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, despite being a pretty standard Bratty Teenage Daughter. She privately admits that she thinks he's a pretty awesome dad, and her main love interests are very similar to him in most ways. Claire tells a story about how she used to greet him coming home from work every day wearing her Princess Jasmine outfit.
  • 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. She hugs him tightly without a word.
    • 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.
    • Strongly averted with Haley, Andy and Phil.
    • Played straight with Haley, Rainer and Phil, with Phil (and Claire) hating everything about Rainer and their relationship.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • 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.
    • Jay, literally the granddaddy of all deadpan snarking, but what do you expect from the man who used to be Al Bundy?
    • Also, Claire, Mitchell and Alex.
  • Deceptive Legacy: Cam has brushed off his dad absent for a year when he was a kid as just him in the military. It takes sister Pam assuming her already knew for Cam to discover their dad spent that year living with a younger woman.
  • Deliberate Under-Performance: Haley does this when she has to bake cupcakes for school in order to trick her Mother into doing all the work. By the end of the episode, her Mother catches on and makes her bake the cupcakes by herself. The results are quite lethal, causing her brother's mouth to go numb, though it was implied she was still trying to pull this off.
  • Denser and Wackier: The show began as a humorous look at family life that presented funny situations firmly rooted in reality. Later seasons began incorporating more ludcricous situations for the sake of comedy, such as Phil magically teleporting from the master bedroom to outside the front door after falling out a window, or Cam and Mitchell becoming loopy after taking sleeping pills and getting into all sorts of hijinks in an airport.
  • 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 level of intelligence/goofiness.
    • Whether Cam's family are really eccentric or it's just Mitchell being a snob.
  • Destroying a Punching Bag: In one episode, Cam and Mitch run into the latter's ex-boyfriend Teddy, who isn't bitter about the breakup and invites them to a fundraiser he's hosting at a roller rink. When they get there, they find that he has asked the whole Pritchett clan to come as well, and Cam becomes extremely envious when he sees how much everyone likes Teddy. He vents his frustrations on a punching bag arcade game—and proceeds to knock the bag off its moorings in a single blow.
  • 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
  • Discriminate and Switch: Lily calls Tommy, a transgender boy, a weirdo in "A Stereotypical Day". Later on, the audience discovers that she actually insulted him because he insulted her wall mural.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • In "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.
  • 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.
    • Cam gets distracted by Phil lifting a washer and pouring water on himself in "The Day We Almost Died."
    • Haley and Andy try to act nonchalant around each other as they are surrounded by the family, but fail to complete tasks as they keep getting preoccupied with each other.
  • 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.
    • Mitchell makes a similar joke as the above when he refers to Jay walking in on him, as a young teen, doing "the most embarrassing thing a boy could be caught doing." Dancing to Madonna's Lucky Star.
    • In-character example: Manny gets a mysterious package, acts embarrassed about it, and hurries off to his bedroom without telling his parents what's in it. Jay convinces Gloria it's pornography, but it's really exercise equipment that's suppose to make him taller.
  • Double Entendre: Done hilariously to Haley and Andy in "White Christmas," especially with Phil being oblivious to the obvious sexual tension between them.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male:
    • Frequent jokes are made about Claire's propensity to yell at Phil and her tendency to snap when stressed. She also tends to overindulge on wine and take it out on Phil, inevitably followed by a cycle of self-pity about it.
    • Gloria:
      • Gloria is frequently portrayed as quick-tempered and violent when angry. She occasionally threatens Jay, implies she's familiar with violence, and even threatens to shoot him in a rage. She even hits him in a few episodes!
      • Many, many episodic subplots involve Jay trying to avoid enraging her over the issue of the week, going to comical lengths to avoid being yelled at or cover up embarrassing things. He seems in some episodes to be sincerely (if comically) afraid of incurring her anger.
      • She often admits to hypocrisy in the directly to the camera "interview" segments, and then proceeds to continue anyway.
      • All in all, it's difficult to picture any of the above being remotely funny if Jay were doing it to Gloria.
    • Played with: Cam routinely weaponizes guilt and threatens emotional over-reaction to get what he wants from Mitch, often leaving him worried and neurotic over it. A frequent running gag in the show regards which of Cam or Mitch are the 'wife' in the relationship, usually casting Cam in the role.
  • Downer Ending:
    • "Message Received" concludes with Mitch uninviting Jay from his wedding, and holding back tears on the way home.
    • The season finales of season 5, 6, and 7—"The Wedding: Part 2", "American Skyper" and "Double Click", respectively—have always featured Andy leaving Haley, just as their relationship was progressing.
  • 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.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Gloria gets into a car accident in "Catch of the Day"
  • Driving a Desk: In "Manny Get Your Gun", the Dunphys are seen driving to Manny's party. The steering wheel fails to turn in spite of curvy streets. In one of the cars, the steering wheel seems to be locked.
  • Driver Faces Passenger: Subverted, when characters talk for too long and don't focus on the road, they end up swerving to miss a car or animal.
  • 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 witness Cam walk into a glass door and fall about laughing.
  • Ear Worm: In "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.
  • Easter Episode: "I'm Going To Miss This" takes place on Easter with Haley, Alex, and Luke cleaning up after a out-of-control party with Phil and Claire out of the house.
  • Eating Pet Food: Manny accidentally mistakes dog cupcakes for cupcakes meant for humans.
  • Eating Shoes: Stella is obsessed with eating Gloria's shoes, but never eats Jay's. Of course, Gloria wouldn't have it, so she tries to trick Stella into eating his shoes. Hilariously, Jay walks in on Gloria with a shoe in her mouth while she's trying to convince Stella to eat them.
  • 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.
  • Embarrassing Tattoo: Ben has a tattoo of a Tasmanian devil on his butt.
  • 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.
  • Epiphany Therapy: Alex in "Under Pressure" realises the harm in not telling her family her struggles in school. Claire, through going to the school open house, also discovers the pressure that Alex is under.
  • 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 FaceTime...
  • 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 subplots.
    • Averted with "White Christmas," where it does not snow. It seems to at the end, but it's ash from a forest fire.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: The words Phil says to himself after he explodes his raft, damages his equipment and almost gets chased by a bear while camping in the wild in an effort to calm himself down only causes himself to panic more.
    Phil: Good things I smell like berries, honey and ... raw fish, so I'm basically all three courses of a bear's favorite meal!
  • 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".
  • Failed a Spot Check: In "Yard Sale", Claire quips some remarkably poor advice about her children, prompting Mitchell to shoot back with "Aww, you're a 'good mother'." with finger quotes. Claire looks away at the moment, fails to notice the sarcasm or the air quotes, and nods in agreement with Mitchell.
  • Fake American:
    • In-universe. Gloria's weird attempt at reducing her accent in "Halloween". "Did she just get back from the dentist?"
    • Done again in "Patriot Games," where Gloria pretends to be Texan to insult Jay for wanting her to give up her Colombian citizenship.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: Discussed by Alex in an early episode, where she asks Claire if she'd do this if Haley became pregnant.
  • Family Theme Naming: DeDe has two sisters who go by CeCe and BeBe.
  • 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.
    • "Patriot Games" has the double-whammy of Gloria in Daisy Dukes and Alex on a treadmill.
    • Season 7 has two examples of Haley and Andy in soaked clothes.
  • Fetishes Are Weird: Foot fetishes are always portrayed as creepy and wrong.
    • Haley sends a picture of her feet to a prospective boyfriend in "Egg Drop". Everyone finds it creepy and thinks she should break it off, and Gloria even tells her "all foot guys are creeps".
    • A creepy truck driver wants to see Alex's feet in the season 6 premiere episode.
    • Alex's feet become a plot device in the episode "No Small Feet", where she enters an online business to sell pictures of them to perverted men with foot fetishes.
  • 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.
  • Foolish Husband, Responsible Wife: Definitely Phil and Claire. Occasionally gender-inverted with Gloria and Jay.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Luke and Haley both serve as this with Alex.
  • Foul First Drink: Subverted. For Haley's twenty-first birthday, Claire and Gloria take her to a bar for her first drink. However, as Haley has been drinking since long before was legal, she has gotten used to alcohol and has to fake disgust in front of her family members to pretend it's her first time.
    • Played straighter in a Season One episode when the family heads to Hawaii for a vacation. Haley has what's implied to be her first drink — wine coolers — and hates it, ending up completely drunk and miserable.
  • Forbidden Fruit:
    • In "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.
    • "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.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Gloria suggests getting pregnant in season 1. Guess what happens 3 years later?
    • A really subtle one. In season 5 ep 11, Manny says to Jay: "isn't it possible that I could fall for someone over time?" In the background, Haley and Andy look at each other at separate times and smile, foreshadowing their exact relationship.
    • So many about Haley getting pregnant.
    • In the Cold Open of the season 5 premier, Alex has a small freak-out over a simple question. "Under Pressure," a later episode that season, goes into just how stressed Alex is.
  • Forgot to Pay the Bill: When various members of the family are trying to help Lily through her first period, Haley reveals that she has been using her period as a reminder to pay her bills. Little after saying this, she realizes that there may be a connection between her current pregnancy and the fact that her credit card has been getting declined.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Claire was basically Haley before she married Phil (because she was pregnant with Haley, ironically).
    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 The Stinger of "Connection Lost," 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.
    • In the same episode, the Yahoo! Question Claire finds regarding missing persons is updated with "They found him in the back of his car—he was there the whole time!" foreshadowing the resolution of the episode.
  • The Friends Who Never Hang: The series has a good balance of the different family members playing off each other, but still favors some combinations over others; Haley and Alex in particular seem to have few plots involving their extended family. The series finale has Gloria lampshade that she and Cam were alone only about eight times.
  • 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: Cam's craziness all day wasn't about a party. It was about turning forty. And when he realised that, everything got 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.
    • "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".
    • "Great Expectations": Jay knows how Haley tries to escape the house from having the same experience with Claire (and Mitchell).
    • "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 "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"
    • "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.
    • "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".
    • "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.
    • Haley and Andy are very similar to Claire and Phil. Both Claire and Haley were bratty teenage daughters, who fall in love with sweet, nice men, whilst both Phil and Andy are dorky Nice Guys
    • Seeing Haley and Andy date is similar to how one would imagine Phil and Claire dating 20 years prior.
    • Claire treats Alex and Ben the exact same way that Jay treated Claire and Phil when they were first dating.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Completely deconstructs the Sitcom, specifically the family sitcom. All the parents fail, but love their children completely. One of the most successful shows in history features a gay couple and an inter-racial age-gap marriage, instead of the typical Mom, Dad, and kids.
  • 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.
  • Girlfriend in Canada: In the Season 10 episode "Kiss and Tell," Gloria is suspicious of Manny's Canadian girlfriend.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Lily's bunny. She keeps her dads up all night crying when he gets lost on the L.A. Subway in "Planes, Trains and Cars."
  • Girl's 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.
  • Global Ignorance: Dylan’s song about state capitals in “Slight at the Opera” mentions Las Vegas. Carson City, not Las Vegas, is Nevada’s capital.
  • 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.
    • Played for Laughs with Gloria and her younger sister Sonia, whose rivalry plays out in extremes like a telenovela.
  • Gold Digger:
    • Subverted with Gloria but who is actually a very nice person who genuinely loves Jay.
    • "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.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In "The Big Guns", Cam tells Mitchell that if Lily doesn't make him laugh, he won't make her be a clown anymore. Well she succeeds in making Mitchell laugh... by physically abusing Cam.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Played With. With Andy (good adulterer) and Beth (bad adulterer)'s relationship, it has been long implied that Beth has been cheating on him for years, treats him horribly, emotionally abuses him, only to break-up with him to force Andy to win her back. When Beth is around Haley and Andy, she gets extremely possessive of him and makes several implied death threats to Haley, whilst appearing very sweet to everyone else. Throughout the show, it's been an open question if Beth even loves Andy at all, and is merely manipulating him because of his Nice Guy status. Andy cheating on Beth with Haley is due simply to Andy being in love with a girl who reciprocates his feelings and actually experiencing a healthy relationship for once in his life. Additionally, Andy expresses remorse over his actions, whilst Beth covers up for years the fact that she's been cheating on him with two guys.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel:
    • In the fourth season Halloween episode using a Visual Pun, Manny has his friend Reuben dressed as a Los Angeles Angels player 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.
    • Done again in "The Long Goodbye." Hayley is torn between working with Luke at the country club and becoming a personal assistant to a socialite. As the two call her while in the background, the shot is framed so that both appear to be standing on Hayley's shoulders, Luke in a white uniform, the socialite in a red dress and holding a shuffleboard stick like a trident.
  • 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.
  • Good Parents: Although all the parents can embarrass their kids, and make mistakes, they all love and adore their children.
  • Goth: Alex's "friend" Skyler in the fourth-season "Snip", and Alex herself during that episode.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck!: Phil does this instead of swearing, uttering such phrases including: 'SWEET AND SOUR CHICKEN', 'SWEET POTATO FRIES', 'SON OF A MITCHELL'
  • Go-to Alias: Clive Bixby for Phil, Juliana for Claire.
  • Grand Finale: The two-parter simply called “Finale” on April 8, 2020 was preceded by a retrospective special called “A Modern Farewell”.
  • 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 and "Open House of Horrors","Halloween 3: Awesome Land", "Halloween 4: The Revenge of Rod Skyhook", "It's a Great Pumpkin, Phil Dunphy" and "Good Grief."
  • Happily Adopted: Lily, to Mitch and Cam.
  • Happily Married: Phil & Claire, Jay & Gloria, Mitch & Cam and now Dylan & Haley.
  • Hates Being Touched:
    • Mitchell "Let me just grab this spoon..." "FORCE FIELD!"
    • Barry, the handsome and homeless aspiring "Reiki" master in ''Slow Down Your Neighbors".
  • Has a Type: All the Dunphy girls like dumb, dorky, yet nice men. Haley dates Dylan (who is basically a stupider version of her father) and later has feelings for and dates Andy (who pretty much is her father). Alex makes out with an idiot redneck kid at the dude ranch, dates Ben, Claire's dorky and awkward co-worker, and later she dates Bill, a somewhat slow-witted but handsome fireman. And of course, Claire is married to Phil.
  • 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.
  • Held Gaze:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 (1968).
    • The episode "Closet Con '13" has an entire subplot paying homage to the film Apollo 13.
    • "White Christmas" has a plot that mirrors The Shining.
  • 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 Banged Your Mom: More like "I banged your sister." In "The Party", when Vic says "Oh, yeah, baby, here we go," Cam responds with "That's what your sister said last night when I was banging her."
  • 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.
  • I'm Crying, but I Don't Know Why: Thanks to her pregnancy hormones, Haley starts tearing up when she plays with her doll, Lulu.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Every adult at one time or another, but the most commonly seen are Jay, Claire, Mitch, and Haley. It must be a Pritchett thing.
  • 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!
      Gloria: Oh please, I could have unbuttoned your shirt.
    • 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.
    • She later shoots down a drone with the same BB pistol. With one shot. While it was maneuvering to dodge projectiles thrown at it by Luke, Phil, and Jay. Without any of them noticing she was there.
  • 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."
  • Incest Subtext: Subverted in "No Small Feet". At the beginning of the episode it looks as though Luke is taking pictures of Alex's feet to satisfy his sexual pleasure, resulting in Alex putting her foot on Luke's face and holding him accountable for his actions, which prompts him to explain that he is actually taking them for perverted men with foot fetishes online.
  • I Never Told You My Name: In order to sell a house, the family does extensive research on a man and matches the house to his interests. They get found out when they mention his dog by name, and dig themselves deeper when they mention his birthday.
  • In Love with Love: Manny falls for a new girl every episode.
  • 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.
  • Interracial Adoption Struggles: Lily Tucker-Pritchett was a Vietnamese child adopted by a white American gay couple as a two-year-old. In "The Future Dunphys", at five years old, Mitchell and Cameron discover that Lily thinks she's gay because her fathers are gay. They inform her that gay is not a heritage and that she is actually Vietnamese. When the family tries to introduce her to her native culture via a restaurant, Lily resists and causes trouble because, Mitchell realizes, she doesn't want to feel different from her dads. They assure her that by making a scene in a restaurant she does take after them, heritage or not.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Claire and Phil, by their children, at the beginning of "Caught in the Act'' during the second season.
    • Haley and Andy in "White Christmas".
  • The Internet Is for Porn:
    • Claire thinks Luke is looking at internet porn in "Not In My House".
    • Played with in "Connection Lost." Claire has a link on her laptop's web browser labelled porn. Turns out it's a site called "Organization Porn," containing various pictures of perfectly organized closests and cabinets.
  • 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 "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
    • While they're all initially horrified, the next morning, all of them are singing the song to themselves.
  • 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.
    • Snarking also is a common trait, evident with Jay, Claire, Mitchell and Alex.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: In "The Wedding", Haley considers telling Andy her feelings, but backs out, not wanting to lead him on and break his heart.
    Haley: "I just meant you deserve to be happy."
    • In "American Skyper", Haley realises she loves Andy, but disregards them, saying it doesn't matter what she feels, as he's in love with someone else.
    • In "Double Click", Andy gets a job offer in Utah, but refuses to accept it, because he doesn't want to break Haley's heart and leave her. Haley, after discovering he's refused the job offer, tells Andy to go after it, saying that they'll make their way back to each other eventually. note 
  • 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).
  • Jury Duty: Gloria and Jay both serve in jury duty in separate episodes.
  • Just Train Wrong: "Crazy Train", in the seventh season, takes place on the Amtrak Coast Starlight, which the family takes up to Portland for Didi's wedding. At one point Phil and Mitchell go back through the entire train to the caboose. American trains have not been required to have cabooses since the early 1980s, and have thus long since stopped using them.
    • Further to this, passenger trains didn't use cabooses, as the conductor had their own compartment on the train. This was usually in the last coach. Only freight or mixed trains used cabooses.
  • 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. If you look closely, you can see Jay drop the ticket for their cake on the baby's stroller as he turns away with the stolen cake. While it still constitutes theft, they at most just made the poor woman wait a while longer. A better example from the same episode would be Gloria driving through the barrier pole at the parking garage, which they also get away with without even damaging their SUV even though ticket booths always have security cameras to thwart this exact thing.
    • 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.
    • Lily framing Joe for breaking Gloria's phone in "Spring-A-Ding-Fling," and even informing the audience that she will continue to do so until he learns to talk.
    • Haley taking an embarrassing photo of Alex and posting it up on Facebook in "When A Tree Falls." Just as Alex tries to get back at Haley, her plan backfires, and then Haley does the exact same thing all over again.
  • 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.
  • Kinky Role-Playing: Phil and Claire's preferred role-play characters of Clive and Julianna become a Running Gag throughout the series, with them getting into character during multiple Valentine's Day episodes. One Valentine's Day, they get a hotel room and decide to role-play as strangers cheating on their spouses. They get so into it that Claire even removes her dress and underwear under her coat as foreplay... which leads to problems when she gets her coat stuck in an escalator.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • The family’s togetherness is often referred to:
    Jay: God knows I couldn’t love them more, but even the Kennedy’s didn’t get together this often!
    • The split dynamics within the family— the dreamers and realists— are commented on and explored quite frequently.
    • The show often makes a point to showcase the similarities between the different generations, especially between Haley and Claire.
    • The very over-the-top portrayal of Colombia is addressed by Gloria admitting that she has a tendency to exaggerate everything.
    • Mitch and Cam’s inability to agree is also addressed.
    • Gloria being quite loud all the time:
    Manny: My mom will yell you all about it.
    • Lily being ignored
    • Alex’s independence from her family
  • 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.
  • Last-Second Photo Failure: The main plot of the season one finale is about Claire trying to prepare for the family portrait. Being a control freak, she wants everything to be perfect. When it comes time to take the picture, Phil confesses that he kissed Gloria (they were on the kiss cam) right as the photo is being taken. They try to take another photo, but Cam tells Mitchell that he's mad at him, again as the photo is being taken. This results in an argument that devolves into a mud fight. They then take some photos in their messy clothes, showing a much more relaxed and happy attitude than earlier.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: When Claire says she didn't know she loved Phil until six months into their relationship:
    Phil: Six months? But you were preg.... tically engaged by then.
    Alex: Good save, Dad.
    • While relaying the story of how he married Claire, Phil finishes with "Five months later, we were-", stops, looks at Haley, verbally stumbles, and continues with "four months away from having this little bundle of joy." Nobody buys it.
  • Latino Is Brown: The Latino members of the family, Gloria and Manny, are tanner than the rest. Joe, who is of Irish descent on Jay's side, looks significantly whiter, much to Gloria's dismay.
  • 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.
  • Learning to Ride a Bike: In "Slow Down Your Neighbors", Jay tries to teach his stepson how to ride a bike and learns that his wife, Gloria does not know to to ride a bike. He tries to teach her, but she ends up crashing into bushes multiple times.
  • 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.
  • Lightbulb Joke: In "Door to Door"
    Luke: How many moms does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
    Phil: I don't know.
    Luke: None. They get you to do it, sucker!.
  • 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.)
  • Like Parent, Like Spouse: Andy is very similar to Phil, in that they are both extremely nice, dorky, sweet, excitable, and realtors. They also get along incredibly well due to their similar personalities and interests. It also further demonstrates the similarities between Haley and Claire. Lampshaded in the show many times.
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: Subverted. Alex is infuriated that her parents think her boyfriend is imaginary, and describes him in detail, while they silently notice suspicious objects around the room: starting with the teddy bear ("His name is Teddy"), and ending with the Martin Luther King Jr. poster ("He works at some mattress place...Mattress King".). But then Teddy shows up at the door, as everything Alex had said was true.
  • 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.
  • Literally Falling in Love: Haley and Andy accidentally fall into a bath together, causing events that reveal their love for one another.
  • Literary Allusion Title:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Love at First Sight: One of Alex's professors falls hard for Haley upon meeting her, basically proposing to her the same day. Alex is horrified and Haley thinks it's one of the weirder pickup lines she's heard, but he gives a speech about fate and destiny and says he somehow knows he'll wind up with her in the end. Haley laughs him off, but the end of the episode shows her smiling and accepting his contact request, implying she's having a change of heart.
  • Love Confessor: Andy confesses his doubts to Phil about proposing to Beth because he has feelings for someone else. Later, Haley realises her love for Andy by confiding in Phil. After Andy comes in and hugs Haley, Phil realises that it was Haley that Andy was referring to before, now knowing that they both have reciprocal feelings for one another. The Skype that Phil is on suddenly becomes muted, leaving Phil unable to tell both of them about the other's feelings. To make it even more heartbreaking, Andy decided to propose to Beth, believing that Haley doesn't feel the same way about him.
  • Love Epiphany: Haley realises she loves Andy after confiding in Phil.
  • Lustful Melt: Haley constantly gets lost in Andy's eyes and forgets her words.
  • 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. Cameron does, however, making a point of stating that he would not be a Magical Disabled Person, however, when Mitchel is attempting to build a playhouse for Lily, badly:
      Cam: 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.
    Haley: And, plus, also
  • Manchild: Phil. Claire even refers to him as "the kid [she's] married to".
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Claire (wearing tomboyish outfits) had this dynamic with her husband Phil (former cheerleader) and with her mannered brother Mitchell.
  • 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!
    • Dylan does it again with Claire.
      Dylan: I get it. You want me to go home.
      Claire: No, it's the opposite of that.
      Dylan: I want you to go home?
    • When playing charades, Gloria's team asks her if her clue is a book, a play, or a movie. She answers back, "Yeah, yeah, one of those."
  • May–December Romance: Jay and Gloria. One episode has Manny accidentally going on a date with an adult though nothing serious happened.
  • 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."
    • When Claire and Phil are trying to convince Haley not to move in with Dylan, we only see the tail end of Phil's speech.
      Phil: Guess what? Suddenly, you're 60 years old, wandering toothless and alone in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
      Haley: Wait a second. How did Dylan get the nuclear codes again?
      Phil: During the robot wars!
  • Mind Your Step: The broken step in the Dunphy house is a running gag.
  • Mistaken for Pedophile: When Cam is trying to find somebody to help ask somebody out to prom.
    Cam: Hey. Don't suppose you're planning on asking anyone to prom?
    Grayson: Ummmm, I don't think we're allowed to go with teachers...
  • Moving-Away Ending: The series finale has several characters moving. Cam and Mitch move to Missouri, while Hayley, Dylan and their kids move into Cam and Mitch's old house. Alex's job is located to Switzerland and Luke is accepted into the University of Oregon.
  • 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 "Halloween."
    • In-universe. "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."
  • Mr. Fanservice:
    • Phil, so much so that even Cam gets feelings.
    • Andy
  • Mirthless Laughter:
    • A lot of the characters tend to do this in awkward and nervous situations, especially Phil, Claire, Mitchell and Andy.
  • Mistaken for Cheating:
    • "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".
    • "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.
    • In "ClosetCon '13," Jay is very chummy with an old (female) colleague, leading Claire to suspect that they had an affair back during Jay's first, unhappy marriage. A misinterpreted conversation she overhears only confirms her suspicion.
    • "The Cover-Up" has Phil lie a lot about Angie, an attractive black client, and keeps preventing Claire from meeting her. Unfortunately his actions also get him Mistaken for Racist. Phil thus has to win his client back, apologize, and explain himself with Claire present.
  • Mistaken for Gay:
    • "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".
    • Then it happens to Jay, in "Suddenly, Last Summer" when his conversation with Manny about the latter's possible last-minute change of heart about going to Colombia takes place in a line of gay couples applying to marry immediately after the Supreme Court cleared the way for that—and it sounds like they're planning to do the same themselves, which gets them dirty looks.
  • 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 another episode involving Phil, "The Cover-Up," he's entertaining Angie, an attractive black female client that he's too embarrassed to show to Claire because of the "attractive" part. Eventually Angie is offended by Phil's actions because of the "black" part. The trope's no laughing matter as it's bad for business and Phil apologizes & explains everything to Angie with Claire present.
    • 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.
    • Gloria wants to take Manny to visit Colombia because she thinks it's important to keep in touch with one's heritage. Cam agrees, but unfortunately it comes out as, "If you ask me, things would be better if everyone just went back to where they came from." He gets a lot of nasty looks from the patrons in the Vietnamese restaurant they're in.
  • 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.
    • "Baby on Board" switches between a parody of soap operas to the devastating realisation that Mitch and Cam aren't going to be able to adopt the baby.
    • "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!"
    • "Goodnight Gracie" starts off with a some-what happy tone with Phil, then later turns serious as Phil comes to term with the fact that his mother won't be around anymore.
    • "Under Pressure" has the minor plot of Jay and Phil sneaking around school, with the main plot being centred around Alex in her therapist session, realising the pressure she's put on herself regarding her academic life.
    • "Message Received" What starts off as Mitch and Cam sourcing items to sell in order to gain money for their wedding ends with Mitch uninviting Jay from the wedding and Haley, Alex and Luke tricking Phil and Claire leads to Phil and Claire reflecting on their marriage.
    • "Phil's Sexy, Sexy House" switches from a romantic and sweet plot with Haley and Andy, to a farcical storyline with everyone at the house at the same time.
    • "Spread Your Wings"- Alex and Phil's plot starts off light and funny, but divulges into a serious discussion of Alex's distress at college, and her plea to return back home.
    • One of the show's many strengths is that their episodes can accompany many tones all at once- heartbreaking, funny, tearful, farcical, serious- whilst still being funny and remaining true to the characters.
  • 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).
    • 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."
    • "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.
      Mitchell: That sounds like a country song.
      Cameron: And that song would be called "The Greatest Woman That Ever Lived".
      Mitchell: Cam loves his mom.
  • 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.
  • Mutual Envy: Gloria is jealous of Javier's new fiance because of how intelligent she is and how well she gets along with Manny. The fiance later breaks down talking about how jealous she is of Gloria's attractiveness, and connection with Javier and Manny.
  • My Baby Doll: When Haley sees her old doll from her childhood, Lulu, she starts treating it like it’s her baby.
    Haley: Holding Lulu made it so real. I’m gonna have an actual baby.
  • 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 and 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!
  • Mystery Episode: "Wine Weekend". After Haley's boss' tiara is damaged, clueless Manny fancies himself quite the detective. This is obviously Played for Laughs as the investigation only uncovers the family's hilarious activities during that night they had wanted to keep secret (e.g. Cam and Phil's hip-hop dancing).

    Tropes N-S 
  • Nerds Are Sexy: In "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.
    • DeDe refuses to take responsibility for her marriage failing. For years she blamed Gloria and repeatedly attacked her in a drunken rage even though she and Jay met years after they divorced. Then after forgiven Gloria when she was impregnated with Joe she switched to blaming Jay telling Gloria that he never helped with the kids conveniently forgetting that the reason he wasn’t around for early morning feeding was because he was working.
      • "Disneyland" hinted that she might have been physically abuses and Jay flat out admitted that he only stayed with her for the kids benefit.
  • New Baby Episode: "A Year of Birthdays" focuses on the birth of Haley's twins while the family reflects on how they celebrated their birthdays over the last year.
  • New Year Has Come: "New Year's Eve", and "Ringmaster Keifth."
  • Nice Guy: All the guys, but most prominently Phil and Andy, who are two of the nicest and sweetest guys on the show.
  • 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.
  • No Indoor Voice: Gloria! Lampshaded all the time.
    Manny: Something happened. My mom will yell you all about it.
  • 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.
    • Phil had a college friend named Ling who seems to be a fountain of these, culminating in a tragic incident involving a hand-built helicopter, an incident Claire has to console Phil on even 20 years later.
  • 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.
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: Jay talks about how great things were when he was growing up in the 50's and 60's. His Latina wife Gloria says things were certainly great... unless you were African-American, Hispanic note , gay, or a woman. Jay acknowledges her point and amends his previous statement by saying things really were great... as long as you were a heterosexual Anglo white male, like him.
  • 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
    • Lily later develops a crush on Manny.
  • Not Under the Parents' Roof:
    • Dylan has nowhere to go, so the Dunphy allowed him to stay at home. But not at Haley's room! If he stays, it will be at Alex's room, as she's in university now. That night, Alex comes home without calling, very sad and with a crisis, jumps to her bed... and there's a stranger in it! After the explanations, she bursts into tears, with Phil and Claire hugging her. And Dylan tries to join. Phil orders him to go to Haley's room
    • Luke finally had his first time. Phil comically ignored all the clues about it, until he's forced to face it. He shouts a lot of angry things to him: "Under my roof!" "In the bed I bought you!" "In front of the photo of your grandpa!". But he admitted to the docudrama camera that he was saying nonsense and had no reason to be angry. He was just sad because Luke was growing up so quickly.
  • 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).
    • In "A Tale of Three Cities," Cam's grandma - who Mitch has a bad relationship with - grabs Mitch's hand while she's on her deathbed and won't release it. Mitch quietly asks for her to let go, to no avail, and unfortunately Cam's family walk in to see Mitch enthusiastically whispering, "Let go," to the woman he doesn't like on her deathbed. And then she flatlines.
    • Subverted in "Grill, Interrupted", Haley and Andy are caught in compromising positions, yet Haley's boyfriend doesn't suspect a thing.
  • 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.
    • In a sad example, the season finales in season 5,6 and 7 have all involved Andy leaving Haley, just as their relationship was about to progress.
    • The show either has a vacation, Halloween, thanksgiving or Christmas episode a season.
  • 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!
    • Also see Armor-Piercing Question.
  • 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.
    • In a surname example, Dwayne, Claire's rival for the City Council position, and Andy share the surname Bailey. This is most likely coincidental.
  • 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.
  • O.O.C. 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.
  • Opposites Attract: All the couples are on the show, with their strengths and weaknesses balancing each other out. Cam discusses this in his 'dreamers and realists' speech.
    Cam: You'd think the dreamers would find the dreamers, and the realists would find the realists, but, more often than not, the opposite is true. You see, the dreamers need the realists from soaring too close to the sun. And the realists? Well, without the dreamers, they might not ever get off the ground."
  • 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.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Cameron, where Lily is concerned.
    • 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.
    • In season 11, Phil and Jay are proud to see that Dylan is starting to grow a Papa Wolf streak as far as Poppy is concerned.
  • Parallel Porn Titles: In an episode, Gloria mentions accidentally renting Glen, Garry, Glen and Ross, implied to be a gay porn parody.
  • Parental Hypocrisy: Claire has a rebellious past (including being driven home by the police in her underwear) despite reprimanding Haley for similar behavior, though Claire justifies this as trying to prevent Haley from making the same mistakes as her, stating during an interview segment that she wants her children to live up to an ideal rather than the real her.
  • Parental Substitute: Jay is this to Manny.
    • Gloria also fulfils this role to Claire and Mitchell, being a better mother-figure in their lives than the woman who raised them.
    • Phil acts as a father-figure to Andy, as Andy's dad passed away some time ago.
  • 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.
  • Perennially Overshadowed Birthday: In "Fizbo", Phil and Claire say that Luke's birthday gets lost in the holiday shuffle since it falls so close to Thanksgiving. They had actually forgotten his birthday the previous year and had to improvise with a cake made of stuffing.
  • Pest Episode:
    • Implied in one episode — Gloria is said to have killed a rat and leaving its head, sending a message for other rats when there was a time they had rats in the house.
    • In "Stuck in a Moment", Jay's home is infested with Colombian banana spiders that came in a box of gifts from Gloria's family.
  • Pet's Homage Name: It's mentioned that part of Mitchell's Transparent Closet as a child was naming his pet bird Fly-za Minelli and his pet snake Zsa Zsa Gaboa.
  • Pity the Kidnapper: When Sonia abducts Manny in "A Tale of Three Cities", he develops Stockholm Syndrome almost instantly. His flirting proves so annoying that Sonia brings her nephew home before the day is out.
  • 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 Cyrano:
    • Cameron telling Manny how to declare his flame to a girl he likes while on the phone, in public.
    Cameron: You're the prettiest, smartest, funniest girl in the 6th grade. I know you're only eleven, but I can't stop thinking about you. I've loved talking to you online, and I think we should become boyfriend and girlfriend. [to the glaring audience] Oh no! It's not what you think. I'm talking to a little boy.
    • One episode has Phil texting Luke's crush because Luke didn't know what to say, and the conversation goes great. During their date, it turns out that the girl's mom had been texting in her place. Phil has to point out that no, it's not a Meet Cute for a Parent with New Paramour, he's happily married.
  • 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 "Organisational Porn".
  • Practically Different Generations: Claire and Mitchell are in their thirties by the time their dad Jay fathers his third child by his younger second wife Gloria.
  • 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 Three onwards.
  • Pretty Boy: With his childish grin and dimples, Andy exemplifies this. Mitch, Luke and Manny as well.
  • 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.
  • Prisoner's Last Meal: In the season seven episode "The More You Ignore Me", when Mitchell shows skepticism over how "famous" Cam's "Tucker's Famous Barbecue Sauce" really is, Cam insists it's known Missouri-wide, on account that a death row inmate requested it for his last meal.
  • 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 (2011). Despite Disney producing the film, and Rico Rodriguez having a cameo in it, the creators swear Disney did not pay them to promote the film.
    • 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 Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
    • "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 Thats 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.
    • "Promposal", in the seventh season, was preceded on its intial airing by a commercial in which Burell, sitting in front of a fireplace extolling the virtues of Realtorsnote  in helping buy and sell houses. Of course, Phil is a Realtor on the show, and two acts later, while he's helping Gloria get revenge on the woman who stole her sauce recipe, his knowledge of local zoning laws leads him to spot several violations by the woman, which they use to blackmail her. Afterwards, Gloria praises his skills as a real estate agent. Phil not only promptly corrects her as to the term, he goes into a short speech exalting the profession.
  • Promoted to Opening Titles: Reid Ewing (Dylan) in season 10, despite having been a recurring character for much of the show.
  • 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!
  • Punctuation Changes the Meaning: In one episode, Cam and Mitchell received an invitation to a Christmas party from their friend that said, "No presents please." However, Mitchell ran into another friend who tells them that the card should be read, "No presents? Please!", meaning they need to bring presents.
  • 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.
  • Race Lift: The Vietnamese Lily has been played by actresses of Filipina (Jaden & Ella Hiller) and Korean (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons) heritage. The original casting call was for twin children with Asian ethnicity.
  • "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.
  • "Rediscovering Roots" Trip: Colombian-American Gloria becomes worried that her son Manny is losing touch with his heritage and considers sending him on a solo trip to Colombia.
  • Red Herring: In Fizbo, Lukes birthday ends with someone in the hospital in How We Got Here style. The episode is full of these, with a zipline that repeatedly hits people on arrival, a climbinb wall manned by an amateur, a probably unclean ice-cream machine, a crossbow as a gift, a collapsing inflatable castle, Phil on the edge of a panic attack because of Fizbo, and a bunch of venomous animals in liberty. Turns out Luke just slipped on beads from the DIY table.
  • 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.
    • In a Freeze-Frame Bonus, the newspaper article Fizbo in the eponymous episode calls his mother Jammy. She is afterwards known as Barb.
    • Jay started learning Spanish for Gloria twice, once in season 6 and once in the finale.
  • Revealing Hug: Andy's face when he and Haley hug prompt Phil to realise that he loves Haley back.
  • Revenge via Storytelling: Played with when Manny writes a play based off of his family life and asks Gloria, Claire, Hayley, and Alex to act it out. Each of them plays an exaggerated version of themselves. Claire's character is a bitter, cold alcoholic; Alex is a bookish spinster; and Hayley's character is so stupid she picks a fight with a parrot (apparently something that really happened). The women take offense to Manny's characterizations of them and believe he was trying this. However, Manny insists that isn't the case and claims the characters are amalgamations of real women he knew.
  • Rhyme Theme Naming: Cameron Tucker has a twin sister named Pameron.
  • 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.
  • Romantic Rain: Haley and Andy kiss in the rain in "The Storm."
  • 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 writers and had several classic Room Shuffle episodes.
    • Done hilariously in "Phil's Sexy, Sexy House" with the family all converging in a house, not knowing everyone else is there too.
    • Also done with "A Tale of Three Cities", with Phil and Claire staying in New York next to the kids, not knowing that the other group is there, just missing each other in the hallway.
  • 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".
      Gloria: How you say, the takatakatakataka.
    • Phil's unseen co-worker, Gil Thorpe. When Gil finally is seen towards the end of season 4, he's just as slimy as suggested.
    • Luke's accidental double entendres. Such as 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!
    • Phil accidentally insulting himself, especially his intelligence or manliness.
      Phil: I am - not too bright! I am - dim!
      Phil: Phil Dunphy is no straight guy.
      Phil: So Laura’s trying to test me? Bring it on. I’ve been tested my entire life. They could never find anything.
    • Phil's strange ideas for inventions, including shower snacks:
      Phil: I can't be the only one who gets hungry in there!
    • Claire's obsession with alcohol.
    • Phil and Claire's door-lock
    • Phil going viral, with his own videos getting measly views.
    • Mitch and Cam's friends having really strange names eg Pepper, Longines,
    • Dylan's songs
    • Cam's high-pitched screaming at Lily
    • Phil getting shocked/electrocuted
    • Cam telling stories about his childhood on the farm.
    • Phil being desperate for Jay's approval.
    • Phil passing out on amusement park rides.
    • Mitch doing troga (yoga on a treadmill)
    • Mitchell's fake commitment to the gym, as he goes there but never actually works out.
    • Haley not understanding the "we regret to inform you..." line from college application letters.
    • Gloria not knowing the name of/recognising Claire's co-worker and Alex's boyfriend, Ben.
    • Pepper insulting Mitch and Cam's house and lack of style.
    • Claire's less-than-stellar behavior as a teen
  • 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?
  • Screamer Prank:
    • In “Undeck the Halls”, Jay gets pranked by Manny twice with a screamer video:
    • One time, when they were watching “Miracle on 34th Street”, the screamer comes up and Manny explains that he edited the copy of the film as a joke.
    • Again in the end, when Jay and Manny watch the end of the Christmas video with Cam and the family singing, but then the jumpscare happens.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: During an interview segment in "Manny, Get Your Gun", Haley is so traumatized by the previous year's family camp that she walks out.
    • Phil pulls this to Luke in "Leap Day".
  • Secret Handshake: Phil and Kenneth's man shake!!
  • Secret Relationship: Haley and Andy attempt this for one episode, but as they can't keep their hands off each other, they soon get found out.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Phil and Jay; Cam and Mitchell, at least comparatively. Manny and Luke sometimes fall into this. However, these roles can all be reversed.
  • 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". This later became a Once a Season running joke, as did episodes on "Jay's Night."
  • 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.
    • One episode showed Gloria confusing a yellow car with a taxi, and another one shows Gloria can't drive. This contradicts another episode where Gloria said she used to drive a cab and Manny would sleep in the front seat.
  • 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. When Claire joins ( and eventually takes over) the company, she gets into this mindset as well.
  • Sexiness Score: Used in "Crazy Train" when Luke is checking out a passager in the train, to Haley's distaste.
    Luke: Ooh, I see a dime piece over there.
    Manny: [to Haley] That means she's a 10.
    Haley: Yeah. I speak d-bag.
  • Sexy Surfacing Shot: In "Hawaii", one scene by the pool has Gloria slowly climbing out of the pool ladder. Phil has his back to her, but Claire still deduces he's checking Gloria out via the reflection in her sunglasses.
    Claire: Are you watching Gloria reflected in my sunglasses?
    Phil: Is she moving in slow-motion, or is that my imagination?
  • Sexy Whatever Outfit: Claire is hosting a haunted house at home. Haley appears dressed up as a "scary black cat", but Claire tells her to change. Haley returns in a sexy nurse outfit; Claire rejects it too ("Are you trying to get candy or Japanese businessmen?"). Finally Haley shows up as Sexy Mother Theresa "from when she was hot". Claire just gives up, grabs a sheet and drapes it around her daughter.
  • 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.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Scott, the mall Santa that Mitch and Cam accidentally get fired in "Undeck The Halls".
  • 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 everyone else) for Haley and Andy.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Subverted. It's been implied more than once that Claire was already pregnant with Haley when she married Phil, though Jay disapproved of her dating Phil, resulting in the two of them eloping.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Maybe Mitchell and Cameron, in reference to Cameron Mitchell.
    • Let's not forget Alex and Haley. Alex and Haley could also be a Shout-Out to another movie dealing with The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry, Wish Upon A Star, where the sisters were named Alexia and Haley.
    • Jay's repeated "it's not fair" after his ebook reader is broken is a Shout-Out to The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Time Enough At Last."
    • Lampshaded by Phil when Dylan is playing his smartphone 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", Haley 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?"
    • Mitch pole-dancing and saying he's 'Magic Mitch' is a Shout out to the film Magic Mike, which stars Sofia Vergara's husband, Joe Manganiello.
  • Significant Reference Date: The episode Leap Day aired Feb 29, 2012.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Claire to Phil, and Haley to Andy
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis:
    • Luke begins to see Lily as this.
    • Phil has rival real estate agent Gil Thorpe.
    • Cam has a lot of arch nemesis.
    • Jay and his business rival in the closet industry, Earl Chambers.
  • 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!"
  • Slippery Swimsuit:
    • In "Closet? You'll Love It!", Phil is wearing Jay's swimtrunks when he tries to stop a drone spying on Gloria, and they slip off. A video taken by the drone is then posted on line.
    • In "Australia", Luke loses his swimsuit courtesy of a wave at Bondi Beach.
  • 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.
  • Soccer-Hating Americans: Jay does not like soccer, in contrast to his South American wife and stepson. For example, in one episode Gloria is rooting for Colombia at a sports bar and gets in a fight with a Dutch fan, prompting Jay to come in and make peace.
    Jay: Why don't you sit down, I send you over a beer, and my wife and I watch from over there. That way, everybody enjoys the game. Except me, because I prefer a game where something happens.
  • Soda-Candy 'Splosion: "Kiss and Tell" has Haley, conflicted over kissing Dylan, confess such to her uncles Mitchell and Cameron. Both are surprised, with the former claiming that he thought he joined a cult and the latter claiming that he heard he consumed Mentos and a Coke and exploded.
  • Sorry, I'm Gay: 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.
  • Spiritual Successor: Too many to name. In 2014 alone, every new show featured a family, in a desperate bid to capitalise on Modern Family's success. There have also been many remakes of the show in other countries.
  • Split Screen: The opening shot of "The Late Show."
    • Again in "A Tale of Three Cities."
  • 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.
      Phil: If I had a chance to go over there, I never missed an opportunity!
      Claire: I think maybe you did.
  • 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.
    • The writers attempted to give Alex an actual college experience by sending her to school much closer to home, a solution which allowed her to be in college the entirety of Season 7. But the status quo eventually reasserted itself anyway: the beginning of Season 8 reveals that after being sick for most of the summer she decided to take the entire semester off.
  • Standardized Sitcom Housing: The Dunphy house
  • Stealth Pun: When Mitchell is throwing a Wizard of Oz-themed party for Cam, two guys show up at the door holding flying monkey costumes.
  • 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).
  • Stock Sitcom Grand Finale: Many members of the family move away after over a decade of living in close proximity. The series' last shots are of the houses' porch lights being turned off.
  • 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.
  • Stripping the Scarecrow: In "Las Vegas" Gloria dressed in a Modesty Towel, goes into Claire and Phil's room to borrow Claire's hair products but her towel gets stuck in the door between their rooms. While she struggling to get it free, Phil and the leader of the secret magician's society (Patton Oswalt) walk into the room. She abandons her towel runs into the closet before they see her and Phil places a French Maid Dog Statue named Rebarka in the closet, not knowing Gloria is hiding in there. Phil then performs his magic trick, but Oswalt isn't impressed. That is until Phil accidentally causes smoke and Gloria pops out dressed in the French Maid Outfit she took from the statue, making Oswalt believe that it was all part of the trick.
  • 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.
    • Attempted again by the family for Gloria, but Gloria screams and runs away.
    Lily: Just a thought. Maybe we should stop doing these.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • 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.
  • 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?
    Luke: I should probably finish packing up the breakfast I'm bringing to the girls at the shopping mall where they're shopping.

    Tropes T-Z 
  • Take That!: Phil saying "I always win! Except with Time Warner Cable" in "The Feud" (also a Product Placement; see above).
    • In "White Christmas," Mitch and Cam complain that after a disastrous musical performance the family has constantly joked about it - calling them "Screeches and Herb... Simon and Godawful... Nickelback..."
  • 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.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Joe is the half-brother to Claire, Mitchell, and Manny, despite being young enough to be the former two's son. He is also the uncle to Alex, Haley, Luke, and Lily, despite being much younger than all of them, and at the ripe old age of six, is the grand-uncle to Hayley and Dylan's twins.
    • Gloria, despite being Claire's stepmother, is actually a year or so her junior.
  • 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".
    • Phil accidentally insulting himself is one of the show's most consistent Running Gags.
    • As Cam's grandmother's coffin is being lowered into the ground, Mitch says to Cam, loud enough for everyone to hear, "just drop it!". Yeah...
  • Themed Tattoos: In "Haley's 21st Birthday", Claire and Haley agree to get tattoos which say "mother" and "daughter" respectively to commemorate Haley turning 21. Unfortunately, while Claire goes through with getting her tattoo, Haley backs out at the last minute. In the epilogue, Phil says that Claire getting a tattoo has inspired him to get one of his own.
  • 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 an impromptu speech that is much more charitable (if not entirely truthful).
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: After the apparent reconciliation of his mother with Gloria.
    Mitchell: 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!
    • Again by Mitchell: "Who's the bitch now, bitches?!!"
  • Time-Passage Beard: Parodied in the episode "The Old Man and the Tree". In the episode, Phil has bought a crosstrainer, planning to use it to walk the distance from the family house to Canada over the course of a year. After a while, he loses interest in it and throws a towel over a camera attached to it. When he removes the towel months later, he's suddenly sporting a huge, grey beard - which turns out to be part of the Halloween costume he's wearing.
  • 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"
    • Rainer describes to Phil and Claire what he plans to do to their daughter Haley.
  • 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.
  • Tonight, Someone Dies: Before season ten started, the producers teased that a "significant character" would die. It turned out to be DeDe, Jay's ex-wife and mother to Claire and Mitchell, which was revealed in the Halloween Episode "Good Grief".
  • 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.
  • Trivial Tragedy: After he and his family narrowly escape death in a car crash, Phil decides he has to do everything in his power to keep his family safe. He becomes a control freak, micromanaging his family in an attempt to prevent any sort of accident or misfortune. This annoys the rest of his family and puts him under enormous stress. Finally, he drops a carton of milk and ends up literally crying over spilled milk.
  • Trojan Veggies: In the episode "Arrested", Cam, who recently took a vegan cooking class, makes Alex and Luke "faux-con", bacon made out of soy, for breakfast in an effort to prove to Mitch (who hates faux-con and was easily able to tell the difference between it and real bacon) that it's just as good as bacon. While the kids initially enjoy and don't notice the difference until Cam tells them, Luke is highly allergic to soy and has to be taken to the hospital.
  • 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.
  • Truth in Television: Very realistic in their portrayal of real-life events, avoiding the typical sitcom exaggeration. The show isn't afraid to give certain subjects, like prejudice, adoption, anxiety, and growing-up, the nuances and sensitivity that it needs.
  • Twerp Sweating: Done unintentionally by Phil to Dylan in "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.
  • Two Words: I Can't Count: When Phil is high:
    Phil:: I have two words for you... Think about time travel.
    • Made funnier by Cam trying to count the words and looking confused.
  • 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 DeDe, and is much closer to Jay, while Mitch is the unfavorite to Jay and is much closer to DeDe.
    • In "A Tale of Three Cities", Gloria reveals that she was this to her father Fulgencio because he loved her sister Sonia more.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Haley and Andy big time.
  • Unto Us a Son and Daughter Are Born: Haley and Dylan's twins Poppy and George.
  • 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.
    • In "Dude Ranch," the family goes to Wyoming.
    • In "Disneyland", "Las Vegas" and "Australia" the family goes exactly where the episode title suggests.
    • In "A Tale of Three Cities", the Dunphys go to New York, the Tucker-Pritchetts go Missouri and the Pritchetts go to Mexico.
    • In "Lake Life" the family goes to Lake Tahoe.
  • 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.
    • Gloria again becomes the trope victim in "Ten Years Later" when she can no longer fit into her wedding dress. And despite her desperate attempts to lose weight, she ruins Phil's magic trick (although that was ruined already by something else), and a button on her dress becomes a projectile.
  • Waxing Lyrical: In "See You Next Fall" Haley tells Alex that the best way to give a speech is to use song lyrics, such as the lines "Don't stop believin'" and "Get this party started."
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy:
    • Phil to Jay.
    • "Come Fly With Me", has Phil trying to be friends with Jay at Claire's request, as well as be accepted by Jay. Jay responds by eventually flying a toy airplane into Phil's face.
    • In the Season 3 premiere, "Dude Ranch", Phil finally gets tired of Jay mistreating him and stands up to him. Despite Jay finally seeming to get it, Phil is immediately back to needing Jay's constant approval after the episode.
    • Mitchell to Jay.
  • 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.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In "The Wow Factor", it is unknown what happened to Claire's high school friend Rachel, whom Jay met at the mall, after Gloria took Joe back.
  • What the Fu Are You Doing?: Mitchell wielding nunchakus in "Winner Winner Turkey Dinner" results in him knocking himself out.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Pixar and Coachella Marshall, the de facto names of Haley and Dylan's twins, Poppy and George.
  • Who Will Take The Kids?: Mitchell and Cameron go through this in 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.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?:
    • Phil and clowns.
    • Mitchell and mice and birds.
    • And Manny and butterflies.
    • Averted with Gloria and rats.
    Gloria: First you kill them, then you cut the head off. Okay I go to church now.
  • 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.
    • "Under Pressure" focuses on Alex and the anxieties she's faced due to school pressure.
    • "Message Received" concluded with Mitchell arguing with Jay over his wedding, culminating in Mitchell uninviting Jay from the wedding.
  • Wild Teen Party: Averted in "The Last Walt", as Manny takes his role as chaperone seriously.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Haley and Andy.
  • All Women Are Prudes: Pleasantly subverted, there are no "You fix this problem or we won't have sex for a month" threats in any episode as both genders have their needs and desires for love making.
  • 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
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Phil delivers one to Haley when she reveals that she considers herself a "giant failure," saying that her unsuccessful run at school and college does not define her and that she has "value, talent and potential" that can't be tested through school.
  • You Are the Translated Foreign Word: Pepper's husband Ronaldo talks like this. It drives Mitchell crazy.



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