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Is the phrase "10 years" a noun phrase? Can I say "I'm your 10 years senior"?

2 Answers 2

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This is a fixed expression:

Senior is used when indicating how much older one person is than another. For example, if someone is ten years your senior, they are ten years older than you.

  • She became involved with a married man many years her senior.

[Collins]

'n years your/my/her etc senior' is a fixed expression. You can't say "I'm your 10 years senior," but you can say "I'm his senior by ten years."

'10 years' is a measure phrase.

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    Also: I'm ten years your senior.
    – Lambie
    Feb 22 at 22:50
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    +1 :) To add more detail about the mechanics of the phrase: in the related expression 10 miles distant: "10 miles" functions as an adverb modifying the adjective 'distant.' I believe 10 years senior follows the exact same grammatical pattern, which would make "10 years" also an adverb phrase (modifying "senior"). Feb 22 at 22:53
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    No; '10 years her senior' has the determiner, which '10 miles distant' doesn't. Feb 22 at 23:13
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    I would call it a prepositional phrase with an implicit preposition. Zero prep.
    – TimR
    Feb 23 at 0:09
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    I've certainly met it, and M-W, Collins, CD and OLD for instance have it. Feb 23 at 19:44
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“I was 10 years her senior” can mean.

(i) I was older than her by 10 years

or

(ii) I was her boss for 10 years

In (i) we have I was 10 years her senior = I was her senior by 10 years. – I was, by 10 years, her senior.

In (ii) we have I was 10 years her senior = I was her boss for 10 years - I was, for 10 years, her boss.

These constructions date back to Old English when the dative case would imply the prepositions to, for and (arguably*) by.

It is possible in English to classify a noun as an adverbial noun (a.k.a. adverbial objectives) see The Free Dictionary.

Compare

I was 10 years a prisoner = I was a prisoner for 10 years. -> I was, for 10 years, a prisoner and

I made it myself -> I made it by myself and

It is £10 a foot – It is £10 for a foot.

*The instrumental case in Old English is disputed and was, I believe, if it existed, similar to the dative.

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    (iii) I joined the company ten years before her. (i.e. I have ten years seniority, but the same grade.)
    – MikeB
    Feb 23 at 7:54
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    I would consider both (i) and (iii) to be perfectly unremarkable and natural, but while (ii) is possible and you may see it in older texts, it’s not very likely to ever be heard in conversation. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone express the notion of ‘having been X for Y amount of time’ as ‘having been Y time X’; ‘I was her boss for ten years’ would be the only natural-sounding way of phrasing it. Feb 23 at 9:26
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    @phoog I’ve definitely heard ‘senior’ to mean ‘superior’ in a workplace context; that didn’t stick out to me as odd (cf. also senior officer). And yes, there are certainly examples (Twelve Years a Slave came to my mind as well), but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone actually use this construction in natural speech – it’s quite distinctly marked as literary and old-fashioned to me. Feb 23 at 11:24
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    Since "N years X's senior" is a common way to say N years older than X", it would be unusual to use it as an instance of the "X's Y for N years" general pattern. So even though it could be interpreted that way, it's not idiomatic.
    – Barmar
    Feb 23 at 15:43
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    Agree with those saying (ii) is not natural; "x years their senior" is a fixed phrase that refers to age. While "senior" does refer to superiority in the workplace, that phrase construction isn't correct for referring to anything other than age. (ii) is analogous to "I was 10 years her friend", which isn't correct either. Feb 23 at 17:44

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