Different ways of asking “How old are you?”

by Wei Gu

In China, age is a topic often brought up in daily conversation. As the Chinese language is rich in content and has a flexible structure, there are different ways to ask about the age of different people. Based on different age groups, I would like to introduce three basic ways of expressing the question “How old are you?” in Chinese.

  1. 你今年几岁?(nǐ jīn nián jǐ suì

This expression is only used for asking children who are less than ten years old. “几” means “how many (less than 10)” while “岁” here means “year (age)”. “几岁”can be regarded as an interrogative pronoun with the meaning of “how old”.

  • 你今年多大?(nǐ jīn nián duō dà

This expression is usually used to ask young adults or someone who appears to be of middle age. Similar to “几岁”, “多大” here means “how old”.

  • 您今年多大年纪?(nín jīn nián duō dà nián ji

This expression is confined to asking elderly people. “您” is the polite form of “你”, showing more respect. The interrogative pronoun “多大年纪” is specific to senior citizens