第194課: Old

The word “old” has many usages. English speakers often disregard the multifaceted usages of English words when trying to express something in Japanese. To focus on the word “old” in particular, consider the following phrases which all have some phrase that translates as “old.” 

1. 年とった政治家は堪え性がない。
    Old politicians don’t have endurance.

2. 年老いた犬を介護し、最後を看取る。
    To care for an old dog and watch its final moments.

3. 義父が人ホームに入りたがらない。
    My father-in-law does not want to enter the nursing home.

4. 老人を尊敬しないといけないことは肝に銘じている。
    Respecting the old/elderly is engraved in me.

5. カシの老木を伐採する。
    To cut down old oak trees.

6. 20歳になると、成人になる。
    You become an adult when you turn twenty years old.

7. 夜が更けた。
    The night grew old.

8. お子さんはおいくつですか。
    How old is your child?

9. 古い木造の家が全焼した。
    An/the old, wooden house completely burned.

10. 昔からの慣習を重んじる。 
      To respect old traditions. 

11. 前の彼氏にばったり出会った。
      I came across my old boyfriend. 

Old (Age)

One problem English speakers have with Japanese is Japanese’s lack of a simple pattern such as “# old” that can apply for anything. Depending on the object, the phrasing options are different.  

Have you ever thought about the age of inanimate objects? There is nothing wrong in saying something like Ex. 12a, but Ex. 12b is also OK. 

12a. 地球の年齢は何歳ですか? 
12b. 地球の年齢は何年ですか。
        How old is the age of the Earth?

The answer, however, would always be 46億年. Using 歳・才 would be incorrect.  If your dog is 11, he/she is 11歳, not 11年. This is because dogs are alive and like humans. 

Your apartment complex may be a 5年物, not 5歳. You may also live in a 5年前に建てた家 or 5年前に建った家 depending on context. With this in mind, consider the following examples.  

13. 100年前に建てられたホテル 
      A hotel that was built 100 years ago

14. 三百年前に建った家だ。
      This is/it’s a house built 300 years ago.  

15. 築50年のマンションに住む。
     To live in an apartment of 50 years.

Phrase Note: 築#年 specifically shows how long ago a piece of architecture was constructed.

16. 10年もののワイン
      Ten year wine 

17. 年代もののブドウ酒 
      Old/aged wine

Word Note: The phrase 古いワイン exists as well. 

18. これは50年ものワインだよ。
      This is a fifty year old wine.

Particle Note: The もの is 物. の can be dropped in this context. It is more traditional/correct with it.  

19. 50年前の写真
      A photograph form fifty years ago 

20. 30年前(の)車両
      Train cars from 30 years ago

Particle Note: The particle の may also be omitted here as well. 

When you have something like 〇〇年齢は何歳, 〇〇の樹齢は何歳・何年, you get to use 歳 in the question. If you were to show a difference in age, 歳 is possible. Though, when the tree is far older than a human could ever be, ~歳 becomes impractical. Even so, 木の年齢差 is shown with ~年. ~歳違いの〇〇 or ~歳違っている, though, is common for animals and plants. It should be clear by now that everything is subject to pragmatic issues. 

  Applying ~歳 to something non-human personifies the object. We’re fine with animals because we’re animals. We’re sometimes fine with plants because we have our tree lovers in Japan too. We’re OK using it in a question when we specifically use the phrases 年齢・樹齢, but unless you have a very specific environment, this isn’t applied to something like a house. 

21. 生後10か月の赤ちゃん
   10 month baby

22. ほまれくんが10か月(歳)になりました。 
    Homare’s now 10 months! 

In Ex. 22, some speakers would add 歳 to equate the mile stones of months for their child in the same way they as if they were to turn one or two.

日齢 exists, but it’s the age of something born/birthed. So, it can work for humans or even eggs. We can even go smaller by considering 時(間)齢 (hour age), 分齢 (minute age), and 秒齢 (second age). These are certainly not used in the spoken language, but we can get around this. 

23. 14日齢卵
       14 day old eggs 

24a. 彼の母親は、彼がわずか5時間だった齢に亡くなった。△
24b. 彼の母親は、彼が生まれてわずか5時間後に亡くなった。
     His mother died when he was only five hours old/His mother died only five hours after he was born.

自然さ Note: 19b is more natural than 19a. Japanese does not like having to express age in things so small and would rather avoid it by using phrases such as “after” if possible.   

25. 海外在住の人が日本で里帰り出産する場合は、海外に戻るのにゼロ歳の赤ちゃんのパスポートが必要です。
In the case of people abroad who come home to give birth in Japan, a passport is needed for the zero year old child for returning overseas. 

Phrase Note: Japanese has adopted ゼロ歳 and it is frequently used. You can also see 生後ゼロ歳ゼロヶ月. 

26. 分裂して3秒後の菌
   Three second old bacteria → bacteria three seconds after splitting 

27. 13日培養された菌
    Thirteen day old bacteria culture → Bacteria cultured for thirteen days

Phrasing Note: If English can avoid the phrase, then you can use that to help you understand how Japanese avoids “old”.  

This, however, wouldn’t be a word that you would just use in conversation. The spoken language must have ways to go around this. With this in mind, consider the following. These examples show how Japanese takes close detail to the total semantic context. 

28. 1日経過したパン
      Day old bread

29. 3日経ったウニ
      Three day old sea urchin(s)

30. 産卵から5日たった卵をゆでる。 
      To boil five day old eggs since being laid. 

31. 生後5日の赤ちゃん
      Five day old baby

32. 作ってから2日目のカレー 
      Curry one made two days ago

33. 妻の車は買ってから5年たっている。 
      My wife’s car is five years old/of five years. → It has been five years since my wife bought her car.