Learning another language can be challenging, as not everything translates verbatim from one language to another. This is true when learning Japanese; there are unique terms and ways of communicating in the Japanese language that takes some time to thoroughly understand.
When meeting new people in Japan, your casual conversation might include telling someone your age. You might also be interested in asking someone else about their age.
There’s a lot to review to communicate all about age correctly in Japanese, but the following guide should help you communicate how old you are effectively.
The Differences Between English And Japanese Words For Age
The complexity of language differences can definitely be seen when discussing how age is communicated in Japanese.
There is no way to say “I am ___ years old” word-for-word in Japanese. If you tried, it wouldn’t make sense to the Japanese person you are communicating with.
There are specific words that exist in the Japanese language to represent certain ages. There are also certain words to learn for when you reach certain age milestones.
Ages One To 10
There are commonly used words to communicate how old you or someone is when they are in their early years. The following are the Japanese words for ages one to 10:
- 1 Years Old = issai
- 2 Years Old = nisai
- 3 Years Old = sansai
- 4 Years Old = yonsai
- 5 Years Old = gosai
- 6 Years Old = rokusai
- 7 Years Old = nanasai
- 8 Years Old = hassai
- 9 Years Old = kyuusai
- 10 Years Old = jyussai
An interesting note: the numbers four, seven, and nine have different Japanese words that are used outside of communicating age. The number four is usually said as shi, the number seven is shichi, and the number one is ku.
As You Learn
Once you know these numbers for one to 10 years old, learning how to say more ages becomes a little bit easier. Another hint to make things easier is to notice how –sai is attached to each word. This is because –sai is a separate word that completes the phrase.
Therefore, one is is, two is ni, three is san, and so on. This is important to remember when discussing older ages.
There are also some pronunciation tricks you’ll learn as you get more comfortable speaking Japanese. These can apply to a number of words, and some of them also apply to saying certain ages and/or numbers.
It would be worth using a translation app that has sound to look up how to pronounce the one, eight, and 10 when referring to the ages above.
The pronunciation is only slightly different, so if you mispronounce it, others are sure to understand.
Ages 10 to 19
As can be deduced from how to say ten years old, jyuu is how to say the number 10. However, when communicating ages 10 to 19, you will replace the s with another u.
Thus, you add the jyuu in front of the other numbers to say ages 10 to 19. For example, 11 years old is jyuu issai, and 19 is jyuu kyuusai.
The age 20 has its own word, hatachi, which means twenty. This is one of the unique deviations in saying how old you are in Japanese that can often confuse people. When continuing with advanced ages, the pattern gets somewhat predictable again.
If we go back to the previous pattern when discussing ages 10 to 19, you’ll remember that jyuu is the word for 10. Now that we’re in the twenties, you will have to combine the number for two and the number for 10, which becomes nijyuu.
We then continue the same pattern, adding numbers one to 10 in Japanese to nijyuu to discuss being in your twenties.
For example, 21 years old in Japanese is nijyuu issai, and 25 is nijyuu gosai.
As you get into saying ages from 30 years old and onward, the same pattern will continue. The only difference is that you don’t combine the two numbers as you do with 20, or nijyuu. Instead, the numbers are two separate words.
For example, 30 years old is san jyussai, 40 years old is yon jyussai, and the pattern continues, with the Japanese words for numbers one to nine being added to the end.
One more difference you’ll notice is that jyuu now becomes jyus again, with -sai at the end.
Communicating In Decades
Sometimes, your conversation in Japanese won’t refer to your exact age. When discussing different generations or age milestones, in Japanese, they will often communicate with specific words for things that occur in your twenties, thirties, and so on.
You will follow the same pattern as you do when progressing in age by using jyuu as ten, and the number you are corresponding with ten in front. As a reminder, san jyuu would be thirties. You would then add -dai at the end to complete the phrase, as follows:
- Twenties = nijyuu dai
- Forties = yonjyuu dai
- Fifties = gojyuu dai
- Sixties = rokujyuu dai
When looking at the typical usage of these terms, they are often used to describe an era as opposed to age. That being said, they can be used in conversation about age and still make some sense.
How To Ask Someone’s Age
There is no way to directly ask someone “how old are you” in Japanese, as it doesn’t translate well. Instead, you are essentially asking someone how many years they are, or have.
Some terms used to ask about someone’s age are:
- Toshi wa ikutsu desu ka? = How old are you? (indirect translation)
- Anata wa ikutsu desu ka? = How old are you? (direct translation = how many are you)
- Oikutsu desu ka? = How old are you? (indirect translation)
- Kare wa ikutsu desu ka? = How old is he?
- Kanojo wa ikutsu desu ka? = How old is she?
- Anata wa nansai desu ka? = How old are you? (you would ask this after the other person asks you for your age)
How To Respond When Someone Asks Your Age
Even though you know how to say your age, there are always ways that people respond in Japanese when someone asks for their age.
There are some variations of this particular phrase that you would use to respond to someone as you get more comfortable with speaking Japanese.
The correct response would be: watashi wa _____ desu. This would be: I am ____ years old, so to speak.
The phrase gets shortened sometimes by those who are fluent in Japanese, where some will just simply respond with the number.
When you are referring to your age and want to include that you are halfway to the next age – such as to say, 25 and a half years old, you would add the word han between your age and desu. Thus, in this example, you would respond with watashi wa nijyuu gosai han desu.
Generic Terms When Discussing When Your Birthday Is/Was
If you have a birthday coming up and someone is asking about it, there are a few terms you can remember while you are still learning your months and dates in Japanese. Some examples include:
- Kotoshi = this year
- Kongetsu = this month
- Konshuu = this week
- Sugu = soon
- Raigetsu = next month
- Raishuu = next week
- Senshuu = last week
- Sengetsu = last month
When you are referring to a time in the future when discussing your age, you would say ato and then the number of months you are referring to.
For example, if you want to say your birthday is three months away, you would say ato sansai, which would mean three months until. If you were to say sansai ato, it would mean after three months.
More Terms Related To Age
When you are discussing the topic of age, the word you can use for age is either nenrei or toshi. These words translate to years and not age specifically, but they are the words usually used in its place.
The word jidai means age, but the context doesn’t translate between languages. This age, in Japanese language, is usually discussing an era or time period, such as the Ice Age.
When you are explaining if someone is younger or older than you, you can say that they are toshiue (older) or toshishita (younger). When you are discussing an older person, you might respectfully refer to them as roujin.
A Great Way To Learn Japanese Online:
Some other terms for discussing age includes:
- Oiru = getting old
- Oita hito = old people
- Wakai = young
- Wakai hito = young person
- Wakamono = young person
- Osanai = very young person