Is “Year Old” Hyphenated or Not?

  • Hyphenate “year old” if the phrase precedes a noun that it is modifying.

Do you want to talk about age? Before you start, you need to know something. Is “year old” hyphenated or not?

When to Hyphenate “Year Old”

Is the age describing a noun? Does the age precede a noun? If the answer is yes to these two questions, hyphenate. In the following examples, notice how the two conditions are met.

The twenty-year-old vintage tasted much better than the twenty-five-year-old wine.

Is the age a noun? Hyphenation is also necessary in this case. Here is an example.

She’s only a two-year-old, but she already knows what she wants to do when she grows up.

Hyphen or no hyphen?

When Not to Hyphenate “Year Old”

If the age comes after the noun that it describes, don’t hyphenate it. Here’s an example.

My mother just turned 65 years old.

A Memory Aid

You probably already knew these rules and didn’t realize it. They actually apply to all compound adjectives. For example, you might say that you will examine grammar rules on a case-by-case basis. Case-by-case describes that noun that it precedes. However, if you say that your examination of grammar rules is case by case, there is no need for hyphenation.

Is “year old” hyphenated or not? The answer depends on whether the phrase will precede or follow the noun that it describes or whether it is used as a noun or not.

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  • Geoff Thomas

    I was caned when in Grammar School until I disavowed the habit of using Hyphens to connect adjectival phrases such as “a Twenty Five Year Old Port” and I do consider this little ‘minus sign’ to be an indicator of a lack of intelligence or analytic thought in both user and Teacher. Th simple rule we were taught was that when writing, if a construction ws NOT ambiguous and could ONLY point toward the subject of the phrase then why would one want to use hyphens. The ONLY reason to connect words with hyphens is to change them into some sort of “super adjective”.

    To give you an example of what I mean, please tell me why my sentence :-

    The ONLY reason to connect words with hyphens is to change them into some sort of “super adjective”

    is ungrammatical from the point of view of comprehension and clarity, and how it should have been written.

    The only occasion upon which I will tolerate its presence is as a connecting symbol where space demands that you split a word into two parts because it spans a page or a line in a printed book. Even in THAT case, it is something one should never see in a handwritten manuscipt, the intelligent writer being able to anticipate word length and use alternative constructions or synonyms for the longer word by instinct.

    To give you a further idea of the strictness of Grammar as taught in Grammar Schools in the 1950s and 1960s, I was also admonished for hyphenating words such as “Co-operative” and “Re-entry” by our Senior Tutor and Head of English, Mr “Bertie” Baugh.

    If you wish to know what we DID use to indicate the different pronounciation of words like the adjective “cooperative” and the noun “coop”, for instance, then look up the little known and even less seen diacritical mark, the Diaresis (looks like an umlaut, but used differently.

    As you can see from this Post, my writing has become ‘clumsy’ because of bad habits I’ve picked up over my years in business although I hope that it hasn’t deteriorated to such an extent as to introduce and ambiguity into my Post.

  • Geoff Thomas

    as a post script, please excuse the ‘forgiveable’ typos like missing the letter “e” from the definite article in the second sentence and the letter “a” from “was” in the same sentence. Speed is the enemy of comprehension. Or so I was told (over and over and over)…

    (I wonder what Mr Baugh would have thought of me using such Internet constructions as “lol”. My hand tingles at the thought of it)

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