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Expressing "age difference" with "da and xiao"

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If you have siblings, Chinese people will often ask how much older or younger they are by saying: "他(她)比你小几岁" (Tā bǐ nǐ xiǎo jǐsuì) or "他(她)比你大几岁 " (Tā bǐ nǐ dà jǐsuì). Notice, here you can't use “年轻” (niánqīng) or "老“ (lǎo).

Note: this grammar point has been pulled from the B1 list, as its mostly an explanation of a special usage of 大 (and 小) rather than a grammatical principle.

Structure

A + 比 + B + 大 / 小 + Number + 岁

Note that 岁 is used here, instead of 年, to mean "year old."

Examples

  • 我 姐姐 Wǒ jiějie liǎng suì.My sister is two years older than me.
  • 你 哥哥 nǐ gēge xiǎosuì? How much younger are you than your elder brother?
  • 他 女朋友 Tā nǚpéngyou shí suì.His girlfriend is 10 years older than him.
  • 我 老板 很 年轻,只 三 四 Wǒ lǎobǎn hěn niánqīng, zhǐ sān sì suì.My boss is very young. He is only three or four years older than me.

If you just wonder which is elder or younger, these example sentences will be helpful:

  • 你俩 谁 Nǐ liǎ shéi  ?Who is older between you two?
  • 你 爸爸 和 你 妈妈 谁 Nǐ bàba hé nǐ māma shéi ?Who is older, your dad or your mom?
  • 你们 五 个 人 里 谁 最 Nǐmen wǔ gè rén lǐ shéi zuì xiǎo?Who is the youngest among the five of you?

But if you're talking about being the same age, use this structure instead.

A + 和 / 跟 + B + 一样 / 差不多 + 大

A few examples:

  • 他 女朋友 他 女儿 一样 Tā nǚpéngyou tā nǚ'ér yīyàng .His girlfriend is about the same age as his daughter.
  • 我 爸爸 妈妈 差不多 Wǒ bàba māma chàbuduō .My dad is about the same age as my mom.

Multiple Ways of Asking about Age

When asking about age with children, friends and elderly, there are certain things that you need to pay attention to. For example, children under 10, people your same age, people older than you, all have different ways of asking for age.

A few examples:

  • 小朋友 ,你 几岁 Xiǎopéngyou, nǐ jǐ suì le?Kid, how old are you?
  • 大妈 ,您 多大 年纪 Dàmā, nín duō dà niánjì le?Old lady, how old are you?
  • 爷爷 ,您 多大 岁数 Yéye, nín duō dà suìshu le?Grandpa, how old are you?
  • 90 ,你 哪 年 shì jiǔ líng de, nǐ shì nǎ nián de?I was born in 1990. Which year were you born?

See also

Sources and further reading

Books