Do we use 'elder' only when talking about family?

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tbentsen77

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I'm aware that we use 'elder' in stead of 'older' when talking about family relations, e.g.:

My elder brother
my eldest sister

But does this rule apply only when dealing with family? How about a relationship between friends?

Would the correct sentence be:

a) My oldest friend (as in my longest lasting friendship)
OR
b) My eldest friend


And how about:
c) My friend is older than me VS. d) My friend is elder than me

Can anyone help, please?
 

SoothingDave

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I'm aware that we use 'elder' in stead of 'older' when talking about family relations, e.g.:

My elder brother
my eldest sister

But does this rule apply only when dealing with family? How about a relationship between friends?

Would the correct sentence be:

a) My oldest friend (as in my longest lasting friendship)
OR
b) My eldest friend


And how about:
c) My friend is older than me VS. d) My friend is elder than me

Can anyone help, please?

Not a teacher.

Yes, "elder" is usually only used in family situations. One exception might be when referring to a distinguished colleague, you might refer to as elder. Or a senior politician of some sort could be called "an elder statesman."

I would use a) instead of b), though b) is not wrong, just too formal for that use.

C) is correct and d) is wrong.
 

TheParser

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I'm aware that we use 'elder' in stead of 'older' when talking about family relations, e.g.:

My elder brother
my eldest sister

But does this rule apply only when dealing with family? How about a relationship between friends?

Would the correct sentence be:

a) My oldest friend (as in my longest lasting friendship)
OR
b) My eldest friend


And how about:
c) My friend is older than me VS. d) My friend is elder than me

Can anyone help, please?

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Hello, tbentsen.

(1) I think that here in the United States, we say (or at least used

to say) "Respect your elders."

(a) That is, be respectful of people who are older than you --

especially senior citizens (old people).

(a) On a bus, give your seat to them.

(b) Answer them with "Yes, sir" and "Yes, ma'am."

***** Thank you for your question *****
 

Rover_KE

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tbentsen,

If you are wondering whether the answers you have been given by non-teachers are correct or not, I can confirm that they are very good, with only one exception:

'My eldest friend' is wrong, as eldest refers to his/her age, not the length of time you have been friends.

Rover
 

tbentsen77

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Hi all - and thank you for your answers.

Now that we have set things straight on the matter, an new question pops up:

'John and Peter are friends. Peter is the older/oldest.'

Which one do we use? Since there are only two people in focus, wouldn't the obvious answer be 'older'?
 

SoothingDave

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Hi all - and thank you for your answers.

Now that we have set things straight on the matter, an new question pops up:

'John and Peter are friends. Peter is the older/oldest.'

Which one do we use? Since there are only two people in focus, wouldn't the obvious answer be 'older'?

Yes. The -er form (older, faster, stronger, etc.) is for comparisons between two persons/things. The -est form (oldest) is for comparisons among more than two.

(And note "between" is for two and "among" is for more than 2.)
 

Rover_KE

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Yes. The -er form (older, faster, stronger, etc.) is for comparisons between two persons/things. The -est form (oldest) is for comparisons among more than two.

(And note "between" is for two and "among" is for more than 2.)

SoothingDave's answer is perfectly correct, but students should not be surprised to hear the incorrect -est form used by native speakers on very many occasions.

They do this either from ignorance or from a desire not to appear pedantic in casual conversation.

Rover
 

BobK

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SoothingDave's answer is perfectly correct, but students should not be surprised to hear the incorrect -est form used by native speakers on very many occasions.

They do this either from ignorance or from a desire not to appear pedantic in casual conversation.

Rover
:up: To add to the fun, ministers in the Church of Scotland are called 'elders'. But returning to the adjectival use, 'elder' collocates strongly with 'statesman'. An 'elder statesman' has no special qualifications, but is worth listening to ;-); and if two elder statesmen are together, and one of them happens to be older than the other, the younger one doesn't lose his status.

b
 
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