I was discussing how to use "When I am older" with a friend who speaks English as her second language. She asked me if it would be more correct to write "When I get older".

I said that both would be correct and she asked which would be more correct...

Could anyone be able to answer this?


  • It depends on what you’re trying to say. It’s more likely that you would want to say “am older” as in: When I am older I will be able to cross the street by myself. But “When I get older my hair gets whiter.” could also be okay. Informally, they are interchangeable for the “am older” sense. – Jim Mar 16 '17 at 17:32
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    Bear in mind that one of meanings of get is become: /When I get older/ "translates" to: When I become older. Get is many things: arrive, become, receive, purchase, etc. – Lambie Mar 16 '17 at 17:36
  • @Lambie - Yeah and it’s all in what follow this fragment: When I become angry my face turns red. vs When I become angry my face is red. – Jim Mar 16 '17 at 17:45
  • @Jim When I get angry, my face gets red. /get/ can be/ turns/ also. Dunno why you are pissed at me. I just provided my own comment, which does not impinge on yours in any way. – Lambie Mar 16 '17 at 18:23
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    There's a subtle nuance. "Get older" implies something changing relative to now. "Am older" jumps right to being older. – fixer1234 Mar 17 '17 at 5:15

When I am older...

When the verb is be, older is a simple comparative to describe a greater age relative to the speaker's present age. It does not necessarily have any overtones regarding the state of old age.

When I get older...

When the verb is get, older is a description of a future state- one where the speaker is showing the signs of age. In relation to a person, that's grey hair, everything heading south, etc.

  • @EdwinAshworth: fair comment: I have changed the wording a little. – JavaLatte Mar 16 '17 at 20:14
  • I still think you're over-emphasising the different connotations. I think the difference is slight. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 16 '17 at 20:31

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