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  1. englishhobby's Avatar
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    #1

    was four years older than me

    Here's a fragment of a script (a woman is talking about her family). Why does she say "was four years older than me"? Is it just a slip of the tongue?
    My mum’s name is Cathy and my dad is called John. My brother who was four years older than me is called David.
    Last edited by englishhobby; 05-Aug-2014 at 12:33.
    If I were a native speaker of English, I would never shut up. :-)

  2. riquecohen's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: was four years older than me

    She should have said "is."

  3. Matthew Wai's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: was four years older than me

    Quote Originally Posted by englishhobby View Post
    My brother who was four years older than me is called David.
    Will it be correct if he is already dead?

  4. riquecohen's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: was four years older than me

    Quote Originally Posted by Matthew Wai View Post
    Will it be correct if he is already dead?
    No. In that case she would say that her brother "who was four years older ... was called..."

  5. Raymott's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: was four years older than me

    I think that's an understandable sentence in speech. And context might make it even preferable. "My brother who was four years older than me ..." = "My brother was four years old when I was born."
    "When I had my first birthday, my brother, who was four years older than me ..." Of course, he remains four years older. But when relating childhood stories, it's quite acceptable to say, "... and then my brother, who was four years older than me, frightened the dog away."
    Also, once you both become adults, often the age difference doesn't matter at all for practical purposes. It is almost as if this state of having a four-year difference in age was only relevant in childhood.
    This is not a grave 'is/was' error compared to some.

  6. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: was four years older than me

    Remember: This is a script. It does not have to be grammatical! Lots of characters in plays and movies have bad grammar.

    If we're concerned with the grammar, a trickier issue is "older than me" versus "older than I."

    Older than me is not grammatical. But it's tempting to use because of the order of the words. Since we can say things like "Give it to me" and "If it were up to me," it's very easy to slip into "older than me." So almost every English speaker does it.

    The grammatical choice is older than I. But that sounds stuffy, at least to most American ears. I think that educated British are likely use it, but most educated Americans avoid it. When we want to be grammatical, we might say: "older than I am." The am makes it sound more down-to-earth to Americans.

    But we could be wrong. We were only born speaking English. The British have been speaking it for centuries!

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    #7

    Re: was four years older than me

    Older than me is by far the most used form in the UK- there are some who still use than I, but they're a small minority.

  7. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: was four years older than me

    In the US "older than I" or "older than I am" is still very common.

  8. Roman55's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: was four years older than me

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    If we're concerned with the grammar, a trickier issue is "older than me" versus "older than I."

    Older than me is not grammatical.
    I am not a teacher.

    This is an old chestnut.

    It is not entirely correct to state that that is ungrammatical since the word 'than' is both a conjunction and a preposition.

    In 'he is older than me' the subject is 'he' and it is arguable that 'than' is a preposition introducing the objective 'me'.

    In 'he is older than I' the 'than' is a conjunction and is followed by the clause 'I am' which is reduced to 'I'.

    Other than in very formal contexts it is far more common to hear 'older than me'. This is unlikely to raise an eyebrow anywhere.

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