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I've looked up these two phrases on the Internet, and I've found out that most websites and sources usually contain the phrase "people of different ages" or "people of different age groups".

I rarely encountered the collocation "people of different age" as it stands with the "age" in the singular without additional words after "age" in this collocation.

Am I mistaken, thinking that "people of different age" is not typical of native speakers?

Example "Ageism: Alive and Kicking":

  • Promoting collaboration between people of different age groups is a primary way to conquer ageist attitudes.

  • They found that younger participants were more likely than older people to endorse the stereotypes. People of different ages are equally as likely to endorse descriptive stereotypes. .

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3 Answers 3

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"People of different age" is not typical of native speakers. (I think that's what you were thinking, but I'm not completely sure....)

I like mixed age activities.

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We use the plural simply because “people” is plural and we’re talking about something is different.  Consider,

  • Andrew is 60 (years old),
  • Betty is 60,
  • Charles is 60, and
  • Debbie is 60.

These people all have the same age, namely, 60.  Now consider,

  • Alice is 17,
  • Bob is 42,
  • Cathy is 83, and
  • Dave is 95.

These people have different ages, namely, 17, 42, 83, and 95.  Similarly, we would speak of people having different heights, weights, likes, dislikes, hair colors, backgrounds, educations, etc.

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"People of different age" treats age as a continuum and as a general characteristic, it doesn't refer to any specific ages. "People of different age have different health problems." You would probably find this more in formal or technical writing than in conversation because it is a little bit of a "sciencey" usage.

"People of different ages" implies that there is some form of age unitization, i.e., selection or grouping. "Ages" could refer to any level of specificity, from specific individual ages to ranges or categories of age. This might be in an introductory sentence followed by a variety of unitized age references. For example, "20-year-olds blah blah blah while 60-year-olds blah blah blah" or "Children blah blah while seniors blah blah."

"People of different age groups" refers to age groupings. This would exclude specific ages, but the groupings could be of any scope. "10-20 year-olds vs. 30-40 year-olds" or "teens vs. seniors" or "younger vs. older".

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  • To me, it sounds odd to use "different" as an adjective before a singular noun like this, even if the noun is meant to refer to a generic concept. I want to ask "different from what?" Can you provide a citation or example to show that this is standard formal/scientific use?
    – herisson
    Apr 19, 2017 at 7:17
  • I just searched the Google Ngram viewer and there do seem to be a lot of examples countering my previous comment. But I still think it would be nice if someone could find a style guide or dictionary entry that mentions this.
    – herisson
    Apr 19, 2017 at 7:21
  • @sumelic, I happen to encounter that usage just because it isn't unusual in what I'm exposed to. To me, it's just "basic English". I'm not sure where I would look for a citation of a formal rule.
    – fixer1234
    Apr 19, 2017 at 7:29
  • It might be more grammatical to refer to "people of differing ages," instead. But the use of different is much more common.
    – docwebhead
    Aug 30, 2017 at 13:14

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