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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Sep 8th, 2015, 08:54 am
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Join Date: May 28th, 2013
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Default years old

The question of a paper is

-How old was John when he was attacked?
-How many years old was John when he was attacked?

If the answer is 'three', one mark; if 'three years old', no marks. Do you agree with the marking scheme? I think 'three years old' is wordier, but not wrong and should deserve marks. Somehow the setter of the paper explicitly says the inclusion of 'years old' makes an invalid answer.
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  #2 (permalink)  
Unread Sep 8th, 2015, 09:46 am
Sue
 
Join Date: Oct 8th, 2006
Location: Milan
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Default Re: years old

The second version of the question is unnatural - we always say How old and not How many years old. As always, I've checked with a concordancer and there are no examples at all of How many years old in the corpora.

Either answer is acceptable however, and should be marked right if it's a comprehension question. In spoken English, it would be more likely for Three years old to be prefaced by he was however. You could say :

A : How old was John... ?
B : Three or He was three.

or
A: How old was John...
B: He was three years old or (possibly but less likely) Three years old

I checked a concordancer of spoken English and in 15/16 examples of British English the expression XX years old was preceded by the verb BE. In American English BE was used in 6/9 examples. So if conversational skills are being tested (and in that case why is it a written test) either is possible but He was 3 years old is more natural.
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  #3 (permalink)  
Unread Sep 10th, 2015, 03:23 am
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Default Re: years old

Excellent answer. Thank you.
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