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"What do children aged/ages 5 to 11 years old know about the sun?"

I truly believe there is something a tad... non-normative about constructions like "children ages 5 to 11 years old" or "children aged 5 to 11 years old". Isn't that redundant? Shouldn't it read "children aged/ages 5 to 11"?

  • Or "children 5 to 11 years old." – J.R. Sep 22 '13 at 16:30
  • What do you mean? Is it grammatical to to have both "ages/aged" and "years old" in the sentence? Thanks! – Evelyn Sep 22 '13 at 16:35
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    Well yes, it's redundant. Is this meant to be a rhetorical question? "Redundant" doesn't mean "wrong", though. It only means "redundant". Note how they are two different words. That's because "redundant" doesn't mean "wrong". Otherwise we'd just use "wrong" for "redundant". In fact if redundancy were ungrammatical, it'd only ever appear as a one-off error. But lo and behold, you can be as redundant as you wish without being ungrammatical. So in short, "redundant" doesn't mean "wrong". That's probably the one bit worth addressing here, but other than that the question is rhetorical. – RegDwigнt Sep 22 '13 at 16:37
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    I was just pointing out there is more than one way to eliminate the redundancy, if that's what you wanted to do. – J.R. Sep 22 '13 at 16:38
  • What would you write in a formal college setting? “What do children ages 5 to 11 know about the sun?,” “What do children 5 to 11 know about the sun?,” or “What do children ages 5 to 11 years old know about the sun?”? Thanks! – Evelyn Sep 22 '13 at 16:42
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Re: "children aged 5 years to 11 years"

I had a professor criticize this construction on the grounds that children are not cheese.

  • …or wine. Agreed. – David May 23 '18 at 20:10
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There is nothing wrong with the phrase "children aged 5 to 11 years old" and it could be used in formal writing without fear of criticism.

One could argue that "children aged 5 to 11" is grammatically incorrect, or at least ambiguous, as it raises the question "5 to 11 what?". From context we know that it is almost certainly years, but it could be months, weeks, days, minutes or any other unit of time.

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    I have to disagree with that. Sure, retaining ‘years’ is fine for precision; but retaining ‘old’ renders the phrase not only redundant, but grammatically dubious at best (to my inner ear, entirely ungrammatical). “He is aged 10 years” is a bit awkward, but works; “he is 10 years old” is perfectly normal; and “he is aged 10 years old” is utter nonsense, just like “he is aged 10 years of age”. Changing the single value of his age to a range does not change that for me. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 22 '13 at 21:41
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Children of age 5 to 11, children age 5 to 11, children of ages 5 to 11, children between 5 and 11, children from 5 to 11, children from 5 to 11 years old, children aged 5 to 11, children between 5 and 11 years old, children between 5 and 11 years of age, children from 5 to 11 years of age, children at least 5 but not more than 11 years old, children 5 to 11, children aged 5 years to 11 years, and frankly I could probably come up with even more variations and I honestly don't think any of these are really terribly wrong, nor is it much worth quibbling over any of them. I'm not being facetious; really I'm not. I'm just pointing out that it's quite acceptable to do this in a whole heck of a lot of different ways, and it doesn't make too much difference, in my humble opinion.

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Answer

KISS!

“What do children of five to eleven know about the sun?”

This is how ordinary people speak and understand — and educated people speak and write. No need for “age”, no need for “years”, because there is no ambiguity.

So as not to be accused of posting unsupported opinions on style — this is not a question of grammar, but usage of the language — here are some contemporary quotations to support the acceptability of this usage.

“…doors that even a child of nine knows…”

Mark Lawrence (Novelist)

“Even a child of ten would know…”

Claude Littner (Businessman)

“Even a child of twelve can do it…”

Dawn Johnson (BA Hons Graphic Design)

Coda

I have suggested how best to rewrite the quotation using an age range, but, as I mention in my reply to a comment, I would try not to write such a sentence to begin with. I have not been able to trace the source of the quotation, but assume it is meant in a literary sense, in which case I would try to avoid specifying an age range at all. That, in my opinion, is the problem. So what I would write in a British context would be something like:

“What do primary school children know about the sun?”

or, more generally:

“What do small children know about the sun?”

You can paint yourself into a corner, insisting on a particular type of expression. Often the solution is to avoid the problem completely by expressing your ideas in a different way.

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    How about "What do children 5 to 11 years old know about the sun"? – tautophile May 24 '18 at 2:20
  • @tautophile — You have replaced my "of" by "years old". Why? To me it reads clumsily. Part of the reason, in addition to the extra words, is that the phrase "5 to 11 years old", when spoken, requires a pause at each side of it as it is in aposition to child. For a single instance I regard "ten-year old" (no child) as as acceptable as "child of ten" — it just depends whether you want the emphasis on age. The basic problem in the sentence in the question is refering to an age range. It is not a document about train fare pricing. At the end of the day, I just wouldn't say that. – David May 24 '18 at 7:44

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