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.

20s vingtenaire (rare)
30s trentenaire  
40s quadragénaire
quadra
 
(informal apocope)
50s quinquagénaire
quinqua
 
(informal apocope)
60s sexagénaire  
70s septuagénaire  
80s octogénaire  
90s nonagénaire  
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:

20th vingtenaire (rare)
30th trentenaire  
40th quarantenaire *
50th cinquantenaire *
60th soixantenaire *
70th septantenaire * (Belgium, Switzerland)
80th huitantenaire
octantenaire
* (Switzerland)
90th nonantenaire * (Belgium, Switzerland)
100th centenaire  
150th sesquicentenaire (rare)
200th bicentenaire  
300th tricentenaire  
400th quadricentenaire  
1000th millénaire  
2000th bimillénaire  
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

jeune young   vieux, âgé old
la jeunesse youth   la vieillesse old age
rajeunir to look/feel younger   vieillir to age, get older
naître to be born   mourir to die

 Related lessons and features

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French birthdays and ages
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