Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Today, in #12 of our countdown of the Top 15 Fixes in English series, we’ll be discussing what is polite (and not so polite) about doing this in America!

In some cultures it is important to know another person’s age, but an old American saying is “Never ask a woman her age or weight.”

It’s often unusual and unnecessary to ask about age, and doing so might raise suspicions that you are really asking about something else.

But this cultural aspect is not the only thing that can go wrong.  There’s also a common grammar issue!

Many English learners use the verb to have for age, and often this comes from a direct translation from their native language.

But in English, we use to be for age, as in, “I am 30 years old” or “He is 30 years old.”


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It’s also interesting to note that in English we use the verb “turn” with age.

  • I turned 30 last year.
  • She turns 28 next year.


In this roleplay, Lindsay and Aubrey are planning a friend’s 40th birthday party.

Lindsay: I can’t believe James is 40! Time really flies.

Aubrey: I know! When he turned 39, we all started feeling ancient!

Lindsay: Is he the oldest of our friends?

Aubrey: Well, let’s see. Jane is 37 and Martha is 38. What about Brooke?

Lindsay: I think she’s 38 too. And Sam turned 38 this year as well.

Aubrey: Oh I didn’t know that! I thought he was younger!

Lindsay: He graduated from high school the same year as my brother.

Aubrey: Gotcha, so they’re both 38. What about Simon?

Lindsay: Simon and Melanie both turned 39 this year.

Aubrey: Looks like we’re going to have quite a few 40th birthday parties to plan!


Other Entries in the 15 Fixes Series:


How do you talk about age in your language?

How do you talk about it in your culture?

Tell us all about it in the comments section below!

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