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This question is inspired by another one on ELL.SE.

To me, the most logical way to say "I am 20 years old" would be "My age is 20 years," because age is an attribute of a person. Maybe this is because I'm a programmer; in an object-oriented programming language with unit support, I might write something like:

person.age = 20 * year

That means "set attribute age of person to 20 times year, or in less confusing wording, "the age of the person is 20 years" The code is imperative, so it could be more like "Know that the age of the person is 20 years."

This would also match nicely with things like "My name is Joe".

person.name = "Joe"

Are there any languages where the typical way to say one's age is "My age is x years"?

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  • Are you in the same class as the author of linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/44815/…? Jul 16, 2022 at 5:52
  • @HighPerformanceMark that's the same question I linked to, just reposted on this site.
    – Someone
    Jul 16, 2022 at 6:44
  • Oh ... I'm easily confused. Jul 16, 2022 at 6:52
  • 4
    Don't you also say I am one meter eighty rather than My length is one meter eighty, I am left-handed rather than My dominant hand is the left one, and I am black/white rather than My skin (color) is black/white? The premise of the question seems very doubtful to me, and the programming analogy just has nothing to do with it.
    – Keelan
    Jul 17, 2022 at 12:32
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    Speaking "as a programmer", I'd propose an attribute "date of birth", and "age" as a calculated property, or function, based on the current date, with an optional date parameter, answering "how old was that person on a given date".
    – devio
    Jul 17, 2022 at 16:40

5 Answers 5

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Indonesian has two main ways of telling age, both use the Arabic borrowing umur “age”, from Arabic عُمْر‎ (ʿumr) “lifespan, age”.
In order to say “Ali is 20 years old”, the first way is to use umur as a noun:

Umur Ali 20 tahun. — literally: “Age [of] Ali [is] 20 year”

The second way uses berumur which is a verb derived from umur and it means “to be ... old”, literally “to age”:

Ali berumur 20 tahun. — literally: “Ali ages 20 year”

As you can see, the first way is exactly what you are looking for, and the second way is even more like a function berumur(N, X) where N is an item and X is its age in units of time.

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  • 3
    Given that the examples in the question are OOP-style, the second way would match the question even more closely as person.age(X). Jul 16, 2022 at 17:34
  • Depending on the implementation, that's the same difference under the hood, but it says little about Object Orientation or Language for what it's worth (C, an imperative programming language, can do the same syntax with structures, but requires a ton of setup to do anything close to message passing OOP)
    – vectory
    Jul 16, 2022 at 18:58
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    When you say "literary", I think you mean "literally"? They sound similar, and are related, but they mean totally different things in this context. :-)
    – ruakh
    Jul 16, 2022 at 20:10
  • @ruakh - Hehe, corrected it. Thanks.
    – Yellow Sky
    Jul 16, 2022 at 21:04
  • @JanusBahsJacquet but that could be telling the person to age 20 years, i.e. to become 20 years older.
    – Someone
    Jul 17, 2022 at 3:17
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Most Indian languages use this construct. In my mother tongue, Bengali,for example, one would say "Amaar (my) bayesh (age) (is) kuri (twenty ) bachhar (years)".

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In English, we don't always specify attributes. For example, "I'm Joe, I'm 20. I'm blonde and I surf but I'm also a programmer."

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  • This is true, but it doesn’t answer the question. Jul 17, 2022 at 15:26
  • @Pharap What premise is being challenged? The only premise in the question is that what is to the asker the most logical way to describe a person’s age isn’t one normally used in English, and there isn’t really any challenging that: you can’t challenge what the asker finds most logical, and you’d be hard pressed to challenge that “My age is X years” is uncommon in English. Jul 17, 2022 at 15:50
  • @JanusBahsJacquet by mere transposition you can see how My son 's 9 [years] equals My son ['s year] is 9. Sorry if this requires reinterpretation of 's, so the equivalence is not strict (the plural s was innovated, no? So it doesn't matter much). More importantly, My nine-year-old [son] and My son _is_ nine year[s] old commutates logically because, to speak with da Vinci, man is the measure of all things – we don't measure growth over time when we grow up we meassure time over growth. Children sometimes sign their age when prompted 🖐 perhaps to indicate they grew old enough to count
    – vectory
    Jul 17, 2022 at 20:58
  • I wasn't challenging anything. I was just offering another perspective.
    – Kelli
    Jul 18, 2022 at 16:47
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Arabic ˁumrī X sana is at least one way to say it: "my-age (is) X year" (literally).

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  • How is that word for word "literally"? This and the equivalent Bengali answer show it's useless to expect that "to be" would translate with fidelity to other languages. Going down this road we might as well suppose that French ai translates 'is'. I am wondering how close nasalized ã is to am (especially in Portuguese, eg. bom where Fr. has bon < bonus)? Whereas Latin would probably not even use any auxilary now would it? "Viginti annos natus est." (*) But est is typically omitted.
    – vectory
    Jul 17, 2022 at 21:12
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So in modern Chinese Putonghua, you can definitely say "我的年龄二十岁" (my age is 20 years) but I don't know anyone who actually would say that. Instead it is more common to say "我有二十岁" (I have 20 years) or just "我二十岁" (I 20 years) which illustrates the "topic-comment" syntax of classical Chinese. It is worth noting that 岁 is a word for "year" that is only used to describe the age of people, so any time the sentence uses the word 岁instead of 年 you already know that it is describing the age of the subject.

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  • I’ve always rather wondered why it’s not 岁龄… Jul 17, 2022 at 15:26
  • Interesting to see compare this with how the question is asked: 你几岁? you how.many year.of.age vs 你年纪多大(了)? you year.count how.QUANT big vs 岁数多大(了)? (using another word for "age" or "year count") vs 您高寿? you(HON) high.longevity(HON) with the interrogative implied by the honorific.
    – Michaelyus
    Jul 20, 2022 at 10:10

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