Talking about age in English (Correct structures and common mistakes)
One of the most common questions people ask is "How old are you?" Do you know how to answer this question in English? In this article, I will teach you the proper grammatical forms to talk about your age. I will also teach you other common contexts for talking about age. Finally, at the end of the article, I will list some common mistakes that English learners sometimes make when discussing age.
"How old are you?"
"How old are you?" is the most common way to ask about someone's age. (You can also say "What's your age?", but this is not as common.)
There are several ways to answer this question. Imagine that your age is 25. The two most common ways to state your age are:
"I'm 25 years old."
You can ask about other people's ages as well. For example, someone might ask you, "How old is your dad?" Imagine that your dad's age is 62. You can answer in one of the following ways:
"He's 62 years old."
As you can see, you just need to use the subject, the verb to be, and either the age, or the age plus "years old."
If your dad recently had a birthday, you can use the verb "turned." For example:
"My dad turned 62 last week."
"My dad turned 62 years old last week."
"My dad just turned 62." (Use "just turned" to indicate that this happened very recently.)
"My dad just turned 62 years old."
If a birthday is in the future, you can use one of the following sentences:
"I'll be 26 next month." (future simple)
"I'm turning 26 next month." (present continuous with "turning")
"She'll be 75 in October." (future simple)
"She's turning 75 in October." (present continuous with "turning")
Instead of "will," you can also use "be going to" to talk about future ages. Note the two sentences:
"Dan is going to be 30 in a couple of months."
"Dan will be 30 in a couple of months."
There is no difference in how these sentence are received by the listener, though "will" is slightly more common.
Sometimes, we want to talk about how old we were when something happened in the past. The most common structure for this situation is "When I was [your age] (years old)." Here are a few examples:
"I learned to drive when I was 18."
"When I was 5 years old, my parents signed me up for dance classes."
You can use "When" plus a specific past period of your life as well. For instance:
"Do you remember the park we always went to when we were kids?"
"When I was younger, I believed in many things."
"What hobbies did you have when you were a kid?"
Next, you can use the following structures to discuss what generally happens at specific ages, what happened in the past, or what will happen in the future.
"At 22, I was still living with my parents."
"At age 22, I was still living with my parents."
"At the age of 22, I was still living with my parents."
"My mom retired at 65."
"My mom retired at age 65."
"My mom retired at the age of 65."
Finally, use the phrase "by the time" to indicate the point in time that something occurs, occurred, or will occur. Remember, "by" means that something happens at or before a specific time. Note the examples that use "by the time" plus a person's age:
"By the time I was 25, I had already moved out of my parents' house."
"Will you have graduated by the time you're 22?"
"I hope to retire by the time I'm 55."
"By the time she turned 30, she had given birth to 5 kids."
Here are some of the most common mistakes English learners make when discussing their age. These often happen because many languages use the verb "have" instead of "be" to discuss age. Remember, English uses "be" to discuss age. There are also other mistakes that some learners make. Note them below and do your best to avoid them.
"I have 17." (correct: "I'm 17," or "I'm 17 years old.")
"I have 17 years." (correct: "I'm 17 years old," or "I'm 17.")
"I'm 17 years." (correct: "I'm 17 years old," or "I'm 17.")
"When I was kid..." (correct: "When I was a kid...")
"She turn 35 next week." (correct: "She's turning 35 next week," or "She turns 35 next week.")
I hope this information has been helpful! To practice, leave a comment that answers these questions:
1) What did you like to do when you were 10 years old?
2) How old are you now? (You can lie!)
3) How old is your best friend?
4) What age are you turning on your next birthday? (Again, you can lie!)
Until next time, stay young at heart!