Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Grammar: possessive apostrophe in 'years old'
Thread poster: Richard Purdom

Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 12:16
Dutch to English
+ ...
Mar 28, 2016

Thought I'd better ask here, since although I've taught English and should know this, I can't find out the definitive answer to whether a 10-year-old child should be described as

10 years' old

or

10 years old

My thinking is that it should be the first, like "10 minutes' walk", or "20 years' experience", and MS word agrees with me... but a PM does not!

Any ideas?


[Edited at 2016-03-28 15:26 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Max Deryagin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 17:16
Member (2013)
English to Russian
- Mar 28, 2016

Richard Purdom wrote:

Thought I'd better ask here, since although I've taught English and should know this, I can't find out the definitive answer to whether a 10 year-old child should be described as

10 years' old

or

10 years old

My thinking is that it should be the first, like "10 minutes' walk", or "20 years' experience", and MS word agrees with me... but a PM does not!

Any ideas?


Hi Richard,

It is either "10 minutes' walk" or "a 10-minute walk". Both are grammatically correct, although I'd prefer the latter.

Here's an article that explains this very well: http://random-idea-english.blogspot.ru/2014/01/a-ten-minute-walk-ten-minutes-walk.html


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:16
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
My opinion Mar 28, 2016

To me, "10 years' old" looks wrong and I'd say "10 years old", but I can't prove I'm right! Why not avoid the controversy by saying "10 years of age"? Or "a child of ten"?

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Stuart Hoskins
Local time: 13:16
Czech to English
+ ...
10-year-olds Mar 28, 2016

“the child is 10 years old”
“it is a 10-year-old child”
To form an analogy with walk/experience, you’d need a noun, e.g. the child has 10 years’ oldness (hmm…).

Be careful with your use of “10 year-old child”. Compare:
“10 year-old children” (ten infants)
and
“10-year-old children” (unspecified number of children who will start terrorising you in about three years’ time – see what I did there?)


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Alistair Gainey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:16
Member (2009)
Russian to English
Two different things Mar 28, 2016

My thinking is that it should be the first, like "10 minutes' walk", or "20 years' experience", and MS word agrees with me... but a PM does not!


Your PM is right. "Walk" and "experience" are nouns. "Old" is not.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 12:16
Dutch to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
dashes Mar 28, 2016

Stuart Hoskins wrote:

“the child is 10 years old”
“it is a 10-year-old child”
To form an analogy with walk/experience, you’d need a noun, e.g. the child has 10 years’ oldness (hmm…).

Be careful with your use of “10 year-old child”. Compare:
“10 year-old children” (ten infants)
and
“10-year-old children” (unspecified number of children who will start terrorising you in about three years’ time – see what I did there?)


You're right, I should have written '10-year-old' as a compound adjective, I've edited it.

As for needing a noun: 'ten years of age', so none the wiser... you're right about teenagers though


[Edited at 2016-03-28 15:27 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:16
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
10 years old Mar 28, 2016

Imo 10 years old
You'd say 1 year old or 10 years old, not 1 year's old or 10 years' old
but it would be 1 year's experience or 10 years' experience

From the guardian
If you can't use an apostrophe, you don't know your shit
Apostrophes are used in phrases such as two days' time and 12 years' jail, where the time period (two days) modifies a noun (time), but not in three weeks old or nine months pregnant, where the time period (three weeks) modifies an adjective (old). You can test this by trying the singular: one day's time, but one month pregnant.
http://www.theguardian.com/media/mind-your-language/2013/aug/16/mind-your-language-apostrophe


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 12:16
Dutch to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
'years old' it is Mar 28, 2016

Jo Macdonald wrote:

Apostrophes are used in phrases such as two days' time and 12 years' jail, where the time period (two days) modifies a noun (time), but not in three weeks old or nine months pregnant, where the time period (three weeks) modifies an adjective (old). You can test this by trying the singular: one day's time, but one month pregnant.
http://www.theguardian.com/media/mind-your-language/2013/aug/16/mind-your-language-apostrophe


Alright, that's convinced me!
Thanks


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:16
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Thanks Mar 28, 2016

I shared Jenny's feelings about this:
Jenny Forbes wrote:
To me, "10 years' old" looks wrong and I'd say "10 years old", but I can't prove I'm right!

Thanks for posting the question Richard, and thanks to Alistair and Jo for giving the reasoning behind my preference.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxAdrian MM.
Local time: 13:16
French to English
+ ...
Not about possessive genitives - set theory Mar 28, 2016

Jo Macdonald wrote:

Imo 10 years old

You'd say 1 year old or 10 years old, not 1 year's old or 10 years' old
but it would be 1 year's experience or 10 years' experience

From the guardian....




Gulp! - the 'Grauniad' is being quoted on matters grammatical and syntactical.

It's not about possessive genitives: 10 years' old is right as a set etymologically and philologically: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Set_theory


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 17:46
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
10 years old of course Mar 28, 2016

I don't have even an iota of doubt on this one, and I am no native speaker of English. In 10 years, "years" is just a unit (of time), as in 10 centimetres long, or 4,000 feet tall peak.

I am quite surprised that so many native English speakers are so flabbergasted by this simple query about their native language


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:16
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Bigger gulp! Mar 28, 2016

Adrian MM. wrote:
Gulp! - the 'Grauniad' is being quoted on matters grammatical and syntactical.

It's not about possessive genitives: 10 years' old is right as a set etymologically and philologically: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Set_theory

Gulp! - a Wikipedia article on mathematics is being quoted on matters grammatical and syntactical.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 17:46
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Of course not Mar 28, 2016

Max Deryagin wrote:
It is either "10 minutes' walk" or "a 10-minute walk". Both are grammatically correct, although I'd prefer the latter.

Here's an article that explains this very well: http://random-idea-english.blogspot.ru/2014/01/a-ten-minute-walk-ten-minutes-walk.html


Your own reference link proves that 10 minutes' walk is wrong:

---
When the expression of time, measurement etc is used before an adjective

In the first of each pair, we use the first pattern, the same as before. But in the second example of each pair, the expression of time, measurement etc is being used adverbially, modifying the adjective, and doesn't take an apostrophe.
A ten-week-old baby
The baby is ten weeks old
A two-hundred-kilometre-long river
The river is two hundred kilometres long
Note: pregnant etc - there are one or two exceptions where we use a plural number in the first pattern:
The woman is three months pregnant
She is a three-months-pregnant woman
---

10 minutes walk is correct.

10 minute's walk would mean "a walk in which 10 minutes are participating" or, if you see 10 minutes walking along somewhere, you can describe this situation as "a 10 minute's walk"!


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxAdrian MM.
Local time: 13:16
French to English
+ ...
Native speaking vs. squealing Mar 28, 2016

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:

......

I am quite surprised that so many native English speakers are so flabbergasted by this simple query about their native language


It is not a simple query, there being a chasm between strictly correct grammatical, stylistically balanced and idiomatic or colloquial use that hardens into a convention.

There is as yet - unlike France & Spain - no ultimate authority on the English language, neither the OED = Oxford English Dictionary nor the American Miriam Webster, plus there are acceptable permutations and combinations e.g. Leicester City FC *is or are* in line to win the English Premier League, the ship the British Merchant Navy sails on is a *she*, whilst a vessel the British Royal Navy steers is now referred to as 'it'.

The different opinions are what *strikes or strike* me as being a matter of style.

By the same token, 10 years' old has - like the word disinterested going from non-partisan to uninterested - turned into a set expression by habit and idomatic use cf. the set theory in lingusitics

https://www.um.edu.mt/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/84313/ffLecture1.pdf

[Edited at 2016-03-28 19:57 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Cilian O'Tuama  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:16
German to English
+ ...
Flabbergasted? Mar 29, 2016

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:

Max Deryagin wrote:
It is ...either "10 minutes' walk" or "a 10-minute walk". Both are grammatically correct....

Here's an article that explains this very well: http://random-idea-english.blogspot.ru/2014/01/a-ten-minute-walk-ten-minutes-walk.html


Your own reference link proves that 10 minutes' walk is wrong:

10 minutes walk is correct.


Bala, you may wish to revise your standpoint. English has plenty of native speakers who get language-related things like this wrong, though that likely applies to most languages in a lot of cases....

You're right in that it's 10 years old, w/o apostrophe.

But later you say "10 minutes walk" is correct.
Would that not imply "10 years' experience" is wrong?

Or how do you see it?


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Grammar: possessive apostrophe in 'years old'

Advanced search







CafeTran Espresso
You've never met a CAT tool this clever!

Translate faster & easier, using a sophisticated CAT tool built by a translator / developer. Accept jobs from clients who use SDL Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast & major CAT tools. Download and start using CafeTran Espresso -- for free

More info »
memoQ translator pro
Kilgray's memoQ is the world's fastest developing integrated localization & translation environment rendering you more productive and efficient.

With our advanced file filters, unlimited language and advanced file support, memoQ translator pro has been designed for translators and reviewers who work on their own, with other translators or in team-based translation projects.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search