Friday, December 14

Age Matters

image courtesy of stock.xchng 

The title of our lesson today has 2 possible meanings:

  1. Matter = (Noun) subject / topic

  2. Matter = (Verb) be important

The first is what I want to say. In fact, I don’t believe the second meaning: Age matters ( = Age is important).

Age isn’t important.

In many situations in life – for instance going back to school, entering a relationship, or doing something new – age is just a number. (This means that age doesn’t mean anything.)

If you’re thinking about going back to school, or let’s say, learning a foreign language (ex. English), don’t worry about your age. A bad memory might be a problem at first. But think of your memory as just another part of your body. If you exercise it regularly enough, it will become stronger and sharper.

About relationships, an older woman can date a younger man. An older man can also have a lasting relationship with a younger woman. It just depends on the people involved. 

Finally, if you want to try something different or new -- whether travelling around the world or starting a completely different kind of job --  it’s better to try it late than not to try it at all. As you might already know because of your increasing age, life is too short to fill with regrets.

So, the next time you’re celebrating yet another birthday, don’t lose hope!


There are only a few situations when age does matter. I remember that one of the first things that Koreans ask when they make friends is their ages. The way they relate, how they will speak to one another, depends on this information. This is a matter of culture.

On the other hand, whatever culture you’re from, it’s still mostly impolite to directly ask a woman her age. The best thing for a gentleman to do is to develop and practice his age-guessing skills, or to ask a roundabout question like:

How old was your mother when you were born?


In those cases when age becomes important, how do native speakers express it?

Well, when guessing or talking about inexact age, you can use the following formulas:

in his/ her 20s

in his/ her 30s

in his/ her 40s


Please don’t put any apostrophe ( ’ ).

The expressions above don’t use apostrophes, unlike what some writers think.

These are wrong:

in his/ her 20’s = X

in his/ her 30’s = X

in his/ her 40’s = X

The same is true when you want to talk about decades:

That band was popular in the 1980s. = Ok

I was born in the 1990s. = Ok

If you want, you can omit the first part and add an apostrophe at the beginning, not at the end. Like this:

That band was popular in the ’80s. = Ok

I was born in the ’90s. = Ok

These are wrong:

That band was popular in the 80’s. = X

I was born in the 90’s. = X

Age Again

Going back to our topic, you can use these expressions to guess a person’s age:

in his/ her 20s

in his/ her 30s

in his/ her 40s



I’m not sure how old he is, but I guess he’s in his 30s.

I saw a lot of guys in their 20s at the club.

Hmm. Our new boss must already be in her 40s.

As you can see, the Possessive Pronoun changes depending on your Subject. Take a look:

                          | She   | is in    | her    | 20s.
                          |           |           |           |
                          | He     | is in    | his    | 20s.
                          |           |           |          |
                          | They | are in | their | 20s.
                          |           |           |          |
                          | We    | are in | our   | 20s.

Unfortunately, if you are wondering, there’s no expression like this below “20s.”

in his / her 90s = Ok               in his / her 50s = Ok

in his / her 80s = Ok               in his / her 40s = Ok

in his / her 70s = Ok               in his / her 30s = Ok

in his / her 60s = Ok               in his / her 20s = Ok

                                               in his / her 10s = X

A Little More Exact

If you want to be more exact about your guess (but of course you don’t perfectly know), you can add these words:

  • Early

  • Mid-

  • Late

Like this:

in his / her (early) 20s

in his / her (mid-) 20s

in his / her (late) 20s

In summary, if you think the person’s age is…



20 – 23
24 – 26
27 – 29

early 20s
late 20s

30 – 33
34 – 36
37 – 39

early 30s
late 30s

From today, try and practice guessing the ages of people around you. You should get better at it soon. (But sometimes you’ll be wrong.)

Hope you learned something! 

Keep on learning !

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