"How old are you?" / "X is years old"

I’m posting this here because it came up in a recent lesson that I did…

What turn of phrase do you like to use (or hear) for asking or state how old something or somebody is?

It is my sense that there is large amount of variability and regional preference compared to what in English is basically always “How old is X?” or “X is years old.”

I’m familiar with a few options for saying “How old are you?” that I have seen in some texts:

  • I si ye san/sanji joli ye? : Literally, ‘Your lifespan is how many years?’
  • I bɛ san/sanji joli la? : Literally, ‘You are at how many years?’
  • I si bɛ san/sanji joli la?: Literally, 'Your lifespan is at how many years?

Does anyone have others that they find more common or prefer?

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Following up my question with some data from asking around elsewhere :slight_smile:

Twitter survey

I asked on Twitter and got 11 responses:


YouTube survey

I asked via An ka taa’s YouTube channel and got 35 responses:

Combined data

If you combine the two surveys, here’s our results:

In terms of “Other”, here’s a summary of what people proposed in the comments across Twitter and YouTube (along with basic commentary and very rough literal translations). Some people proposed multiple alternatives and I have no idea whether they voted “Other” or if they even voted at all.

  • San(ji) joli bɛ i bolo? (This was suggested by someone who also said that all three of the above options in the poll work just fine.) = How many years do you have?
  • I san ye joli (de/le) ye? = Your years are how many?
  • I ye san joli ye? = You are how many years?
  • I ye san joli le la? (Maninka) = You are at how many years?
  • I san joli le? (Maninka) = You, it’s how many years?
  • I san joli le ye tan? (Jula/Maninka) = You, it’s how many years currently?
  • I bɛ ni san joli le ye? (Jula) = You are with how many years?


This suggests that both I si ye san(ji) joli ye? (‘Your lifespan is how many years?’) and I san(ji) bɛ joli la? (‘Your years are at how many?’) are nearly equally common ways to say “How old are you?” in Bambara.

That said, the range of “Other” options proposed reveal that there are plenty of other acceptable options :slight_smile:

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