Years old vs year-old vs age vs aged vs years of age

Today is all about how we talk about how many years old something or someone is, or how many years in a row we’ve won an award.

When is it “years old” vs “#-year-old”?

“Years old” is the most common and most reader-friendly way of talking about how old something or someone is (in Australian English).

e.g. CompanyX is more than 100 years old.

You always use hyphens for “#-year-old” because it is either used as an adjective (similar to how you put a hyphen in “award-winning”) … or it is a noun on its own (in which case it is a compound word, two or more words stuck together).

Not using hyphens here is a common mistake.

e.g. Adjective: CompanyX is the largest 100-year-old organisation in Queensland.

e.g. Noun: My 2-year-old is very tall for her age.

When is it “age” vs “aged” vs “years of age”?

Beware of using “age” when you could be using the reader-friendly phrase “years old” instead. I always used to see this often when updating our member-facing forms; it would say “If you are age 55 / 60 / etc.” instead of “If you’re 55 years old”.

e.g. If you are aged 55 years or over, please fill in this part of the form. >>> For readability, it’s easier to say “If you are 55 years old or over”.

e.g. Start planning your retirement before you reach the usual age for stopping work.

e.g. My daughter is only 2 years of age, so she’s not thinking about retirement yet. She is not yet of an age to retire. >>> For readability, it’s easier to say “only 2 years old”.

e.g. This coming-of-age novel is a good read.

Lastly, “year” and “years” can be used in a few different ways.

e.g. CompanyX has won the Platinum rating from SuperRatings for more than 10 years in a row.

e.g. In the year 2020, lots of people began working from home, and it was also my third year working at CompanyX.

e.g. CompanyX has been taking care of clients for more than 100 years.

e.g. Our current investment approach was initiated around 10 years ago, after the GFC.

e.g. You could say someone is wise beyond their years.

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Image source: Collegedunia.com

Any other ways of talking about time and age that you’ve seen tripping people up?

(C) TJ Withers-Ryan, 2022. Please credit me when you share or repost. Thanks!

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