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Asking someone about their age is one of the sensitive topics of social discussion in many cultures. Even in some countries, the law does not allow asking someone about their age in job interviews. As ageism is becoming more prevalent in many societies nowadays, you should always be very careful while talking about someone’s age.
As a general rule, you can say, “Would you mind if I ask how old you are?” to ask someone about their age. If you have genuine reasons to ask about someone’s age, explain the reasons and be sure that they are comfortable talking about their age. Be polite in choice of words, tone, and body language so that they do not feel offended by being asked about their age.
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Have you ever heard someone saying, “Age is just a number?” Yes, age is just a number for many people, and they don’t bother about who asks and knows about their age or who doesn’t. In contrast, there are other people who think that it’s none of someone else’s business how old they are.
Therefore, you are expected to be very careful and sensible while asking someone about their age. In this post, I will share some polite expressions and tips that you can consider while talking to someone about their age. Here I present more than twelve common polite phrases that you can use to ask someone about how old they are.
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1. Would You Mind If I Asked How Old You Are?
This is a very polite expression to ask about someone’s age, especially if you meet the person for the very first time and you need to know their age for a valid reason. When you are in any formal setting or a public place, use this expression instead of asking directly about someone’s age.
2. Would You Mind Telling Me Your Age?
“Would you mind telling me your age?” is a similar expression to the previous one – would you mind if I ask how old you are? Though the wording is different, you can also use this expression to ask about someone’s age in a formal or public place.
This polite expression is of best use when you talk to someone who you have met newly. Yet, be sure that the person doesn’t get offended. If there is any possibility, it’d be better not to ask.
3. May I Ask You How Old You Are?
This is a common expression to ask someone about their age. As we know, whenever we ask someone about something, some modal auxiliary verbs may help us sound polite. The modal “May” is such a word.
Thus, you can use “May I ask you how old you are?” to ask for permission politely in English to know about someone’s age. Though it sounds like you are asking for permission to ask, in most cases, the person will answer you with their age if they are comfortable sharing their age.
4. May I Know How Old You Are?
“May I know how old you are?” is a similar expression to the previous one—May I ask you how old you are? This is also a formal and polite way to ask someone about their age. The differences between these two are in the wording and the purpose.
The previous one sounds like asking for permission, but this one is a straightforward, polite question about someone’s age.
5. May I Know Your Age?
“May I know your age” may sound very direct, but this is a polite way to ask someone about their age. You can use this in formal and semi-formal situations. It’s a similar expression to the previous one—“May I know how old are you?”
6. Do You Mind If I Ask Your Age?
In both formal and semiformal settings, you can use the expression—“Do you mind if I ask your age?” to ask someone about their age. However, I recommend you to use this only in semiformal settings, as “Do” sounds a bit less formal and polite than “Would.” If it’s a formal context, it would be better if you use “Would you mind if I ask your age?”
7. Do You Mind Telling Me Your Age?
“Do you mind telling me your age?” is similar to the previous expression. The difference is in the wording. But you can use expressions 5 and 6 to ask someone about their age in the same context.
8. Would It Be A Problem If I Asked About Your Age?
Though this expression is not commonly used to ask someone about their age, it is an excellent way to ask for permission. If you ask someone about their age in this way, the person will understand that you are concerned about their discomfort.
You sound empathetic, polite, and formal when you say, “Would it be a problem if I ask about your age?”
9. How Old Are You?
“How old are you?” is the most common but too direct and somewhat impolite way of asking someone about their age. Non-native English speakers commonly use this to know about someone’s age, but native speakers find this question rude.
So, instead of using this type of question, it’s better if you ask differently and indirectly. I hope you have already learned some of the polite expressions from the above parts of the post. To get some more ideas, read the post till the end.
10. How Old Are You Now?
We can use this expression in particular situations—someone’s birthday, for example. You can ask your friends, “How old are you now” on their birthday if they are comfortable sharing. So be sure first that they have no problem sharing their age, as you might not want to offend someone on their birthday.
11. How Old Did You Turn?
“How old did you turn?” is an excellent way to ask someone about their age on their birthday. This is a similar kind of expression to “How old are you now?”
12. How Many Times Has The Earth Gone Around The Sun Since You Were Born?
Well! This is so romantic and indirect. Isn’t it? You may ask your girlfriend’s age in this way. But before you do so, be sure that she might not get offended by any means, or you may end up in a breakup.
Some Subtle Ways to Find Someone’s Age
It’s not good to ask someone about their age, especially if they are your new friend or someone you have just met for the first time. Though it’s an innocent question to you, this may appear to be an offending one to someone else. So, it’s better to be less interested in someone else’s age if you don’t have any genuine reasons behind it.
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However, if you are still curious to know their age, you can use some of the below-mentioned subtle ways to figure out someone’s age.
- On someone’s birthday, you can ask them if this is a special or milestone birthday. In that case, someone may respond by saying, “Yes, it is. I have passed four decades of my life.” Well! Now you know, the person is forty years old.
- You can share an event or a release of a movie with a statement like “When World Trade Center was attacked, I was just eight years old. How about you?” Now you may hear from the person about how old s/he was when the attack occurred. But again, it merely depends on that person, whether s/he will talk about age or not.
- Suppose you are an employer looking for some young and energetic people for a home security company. In that case, you may deliver a document to the candidates to fill up, mentioning their specific age today along with other information. Yet, don’t forget that in many states or countries, the laws don’t permit you to ask any candidate about their age. So, be sure about that before you move on.
- To know about someone’s age, you can ask about their younger and elder sibling’s age. And from that, you can figure out at least a range of someone’s age using your probing capability. But be cautious that you are not caught red-handed.
- A very common way is asking about the year of graduation, joining high school, etc.
These are some of the subtle ways to figure out someone’s age. But I recommend not to be clever to people regarding such sensitive issues. If you are only curious because you are nosy, don’t go for asking about someone’s age. But if you have genuine reasons, go for it in a very well-mannered way.
10 Useful Tips to Consider to Ask Someone About Their Age
Here I present some tips that you should always consider if you are about to ask someone how old they are.
- If there is even a tiny possibility that the person might get offended, don’t ask about their age. In many cultures, people are sensitive about sharing their age, especially girls.
- Whether someone is young or old in terms of their biological age, don’t ask about that if you think they may not feel comfortable. Even many young people tend to avoid talking about their age.
- Some people may seem very friendly, but still, if you are not sure about their feelings and mood, avoid asking about their age.
- If you know someone very well and you maintain a friendly relationship with them, feel free to ask about their age if needed.
- If you meet someone for the first time, it’s better to avoid questions related to their age. However, if it comes naturally and they look comfortable in the conversation, you can move on with age-related questions.
- And yes, if there is even a little doubt about someone’s comfort, avoid asking them about their age.
- Think about what it means to be old, and be sure to ask about age to avoid an adverse reaction.
- Never judge someone by their age. Some are very mature at 15 years, and others are not in their late forties.
- To many people, age is just a number and a mere state of mind. Someone may look younger than their biological age. So, don’t cause any confusion or contradiction by asking someone’s age.
- Give priority to others’ comfort compared to your curiosity. Suppose someone is not comfortable sharing about their age. In that case, your interest may offend them, and the relationship between you and them may worsen.
A Sample Conversation on Asking Someone About Their Age
The following is a conversation between a surveyor and Judith in which the surveyor asks Judith about her age politely.
Surveyor: Good afternoon, mam. I’m Ken Sebastian from the County Surveyor Office. I’m doing a zonal survey regarding the central health service.
Judith: I see. Is it really a mandatory survey, or can we skip that?
Surveyor: Actually, it’s government-authorized, and each family in the zone should take it.
Judith: Okay. How may I help you?
Surveyor: I need some basic information. First off, your husband’s and your full name, please.
Judith: David McMillan and Judith Stacey.
Surveyor: Your professions?
Judith: David is an electrician, and I run an online boutique.
Surveyor: How many children do you have?
Judith: Two. A boy and a girl.
Surveyor: Alright. Would you mind if I asked how old you are?
Judith: I’m 37.
Surveyor: May I ask how old is Mr. McMillan?
Judith: He’s 39.
Surveyor: Thank you. Now, would you mind telling me what grades your children are in?
Judith: Oh, my son, Noah, is in the 6th grade, while Rosy, my daughter, is in the 4th.
Surveyor: Okay. I guess they’re about 12 and 10, respectively!
Judith: Yes. You’re right.
Surveyor: The last question. How long have you been living in this house?
Judith: Mmmm…. About seven years now.
County (noun) = a remote territory or division outside the main city or capital
Survey (verb) = to gather information by observation or investigation to reach a conclusion
Skip (verb) = to miss or avoid something intentionally or unintentionally
Mandatory (adjective) = a compulsory task, rule, or instruction
Boutique (noun) = a business place that is smaller than typical sizes
Caution! Are you Promoting Ageism by Asking Someone’s Age?
You already are familiar with the term ageism or agism—a stereotyping and discriminating attitude towards someone based on their age. Robert Neil Butler, an American physician, and author, coined the term in 1969. He describes ageism as
[a] process of systematic stereotyping or discrimination against people because they are old, just as racism and sexism accomplish with skin colour and gender.Butler 1975
In many societies, it is seen that older people are in an existential crisis as the younger generation ignores them. Even in many countries, children ignore their own parents and send them to old homes just because they are aging.
However, a matter of great pleasure is that countries like the USA allow family members to act as personal care assistants and get paid. To know more about this, you can read the OLR Research Report by visiting Connecticut General Assembly Official Website.
Not only in families, but ageism also occurs prevalently at both individual and institutional levels.
a wide range of phenomena on both individual and institutional levels- stereotypes and myths, outright disdain and dislike, simple avoidance of contact, and discriminatory practices in housing, employment, and services of all kinds.Butler 1975
Whenever you think to ask someone about their age, consider the ways and tips I mentioned above. Ask about someone’s age, if there is any valid reason, otherwise not. Be polite in not only your words but in body language and voice tone.
Thanks for reading.