Ages, Birthdays, Anniversaries

French ages, birthdays, anniversaries
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Âges et anniversaires

One of the confusing things for beginning French students is that age is expressed with avoir (to have), rather than être (to be).

Par exemple …

Quel âge avez-vous ? How old are you?
J’ai 27 ans. I’m 27 (years old).

 Note that ans is always required in French; you can’t say J’ai 27.

Expression: aller sur ses ___ ans = to be going on ___.

Quel âge a-t-il ? How old is he?
Il va sur ses 4 ans. He’s going on 4 (years old), He’ll soon be 4.

Age Ranges

French has nouns and adjectives for a person whose age falls within a specific decade, from 20s all the way to 110 and up.

20svingtenaire(rare)
30strentenaire 
40squadragénaire
quadra
 
(informal apocope)
50squinquagénaire
quinqua
 
(informal apocope)
60ssexagénaire 
70sseptuagénaire 
80soctogénaire 
90snonagénaire 
100+centenaire 
110+ supercentenaire,super-centenaire

Par exemple…

Un octogénaire a écrit ce livre. An eighty-year-old wrote this book.
Ma fille est quadragénaire. My daughter is in her 40s.

You can be a little more specific, funnily enough, with approximate numbers:

Paul a une vingtaine d’années. Paul is about 20.
Alix a une cinquantaine d’années. Alix is about 50.

These can be further modified with jeune and avancé, but note that the construction changes to the verb être plus dans, as if the age is a place:

Anny est dans la jeune trentaine. Anny is in her early 30s.
Marc est dans la quarantaine avancée. Marc is in his late 40s.

Birthdays and Anniversaries

In French, un anniversaire is equivalent to both "birthday" and "anniversary."

Quelle est la date de ton anniversaire ?
C’est quand, ton anniversaire ?
 When is your birthday?
C’est notre anniversaire de mariage. It’s our wedding anniversary.

Verbs and expressions

Milestones

Some* French nouns for milestone (decades, centuries, millenia) anniversaries of important events** are the same as their age-range counterparts:

20thvingtenaire(rare)
30thtrentenaire 
40thquarantenaire*
50thcinquantenaire*
60thsoixantenaire*
70thseptantenaire* (Belgium, Switzerland)
80thhuitantenaire
octantenaire
* (Switzerland)
90thnonantenaire* (Belgium, Switzerland)
100thcentenaire 
150thsesquicentenaire(rare)
200thbicentenaire 
300thtricentenaire 
400thquadricentenaire 
1000thmillénaire 
2000thbimillénaire 
3000th trimillénaire 

 * Note the difference between these milestones and their equivalent age ranges.

** Important events = newsworthy anniversaries such as that of a celebrity’s death, not a personal event like a wedding anniversary.

70th, 80th, and 90th only exist in places that use the matching numbers (see details at the end of Numbers 60 to 99).

You can also use ordinal numbers for milestones. For example, "the 30th anniversary of his death" can be expressed as le trentenaire de sa mort or le trentième anniversaire de sa mort.

Age-Old Vocabulary

jeuneyoung vieux, âgéold
la jeunesseyouth la vieillesseold age
rajeunirto look/feel younger vieillirto age, get older
naîtreto be born mourirto die

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French birthdays and ages

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