6 Handy Ways to Respond to ‘¿Cuántos años tienes?’

Picture it: you meet a native Spanish-speaker and you’re happy to get a chance to practice the language.

Then, all of a sudden, you find yourself on the receiving end of a “¿Cuántos años tienes?” (or ‘how old are you?’ in English) and you hastily translate ‘I’m 30 years old’ as ‘Soy 30 años viejo’.

You interlocutor raises an eyebrow, but politely continues the conversation …

Híjole, what went wrong?


KEY TAKEAWAYS


The following are common replies to ‘¿Cuántos años tienes?’

1. Tengo 31 años. = I’m 31 years old.

2. Voy a cumplir 20 años. = I’m going to turn 20.

3. Acabo de cumplir 45 años. = I just turned 45.


It’s also VERY common for people to answer with just a number –

¿Cuántos años tienes?

Veinticuatro



How old are you?

Twenty-four


Cuántos años tienes’ in English

‘Cuántos años tienes’ literally translates as ‘how many years do you have’

Cuántos (how many) + años (years) + tienes (– do you – have)

So, when responding, you MUST use ‘tener’ (or ‘to have’ in English), instead of the verbs ‘ser’ or ‘estar’ (‘to be’).

For example –

Mi tía tiene (to have) 49 años, pero pronto cumplirá 50.

My aunt is (to be) 49 years old, but she’ll soon turn 50.


It’s also worth mentioning that ‘cuántos años tienes’ is conjugated in the informal ‘you’ form, ‘tú’ (‘tú tienes’ – ‘you have’).

If you’re speaking to someone you have a great deal of respect for, such as an authority figure or a stranger, you can use the formal ‘you’ (‘usted’) conjugation instead: ‘cuántos años tiene’.

Profesor, le puedo preguntar, ¿cuántos años tiene?

Professor, may I ask, how old are you?


It can also be phrased in the following ways –

1. ¿Qué edad tienes? = How old are you?


2. ¿Cuál es tu edad? = How old are you?

Now let’s dive into the most popular ways to respond to ‘¿Cuántos años tienes?’ in Spanish!




1 Tengo ‘x’ años de edad – I’m ‘x’ years old

As I mentioned previously, when speaking about how old you are in Spanish, you should say how many years you ‘have’ (or the verb ‘tener’).

Tengo’ + number of years + ‘años de edad’ is the “proper” way to respond to ‘cuántos años tienes’ (although not the most commonplace!).

El inicio de una novela

Cuando se desató la guerra, tenía veintitrés años de edad.



The beginning of a novel

When the war broke out, I was twenty-three years old.

2 Tengo ‘x’ años – I’m ‘x’ years old

Although the “proper” way to tell someone your age is by using ‘años de edad’, the reality is that most responses in everyday speech just omit it completely.

The most common way to respond to ‘cuántos años tienes’ in everyday spoken Spanish is: ‘tengo’ +number of years + ‘años’ (leaving the word ‘edad’ (‘age’) out).

I mean it’s just easier on the ol’ tongue, ain’t it!

Alicia – ¡No sabía que tenías una hermanita! ¿Cuántos años tiene?

Mireya – Sí, le llevo ocho años. Tiene 9 años.



Alicia – I didn’t know you had a little sister! How old is she?

Mireya – Yeah, she’s 8 years younger than me. She’s 9 years old.

3 Voy a cumplir ‘x’ años – I’m going to turn ‘x’

If your birthday is on the horizon, you can answer with ‘voy a cumplir’+ number of years + ‘años, which means ‘I’m going to turn (number of years)’.

If in English we ‘turn years’, in Spanish people ‘cumple años’. ‘Cumplir’ normally means ‘to achieve’ or ‘to fulfill’, but in this specific sense it also means ‘to turn’.

Dos extraños platicando en una fiesta

Vanessa – Y…¿cuántos años tienes?

Rafael – Voy a cumplir 27 años el próximo mes, ¿y tú?



Two strangers chatting at a party

Vanessa – So … How old are you?

Rafael – I’m turning 27 next month, and you?

4 Estoy por cumplir ‘x’ años – I’m about to turn ‘x’

Another way of expressing this idea is by saying ‘estoy por cumplir’ + number of years + ‘años’.


Nadia – ¿Por qué la cara larga?

Leandro – Estoy por cumplir 30 años y creo que no sé qué quiero hacer de mi vida…



Nadia – Why the long face?

Leandro – I’m about to turn 30 and I don’t know what I want to do with my life …

Erika’s top tip – in this context, ‘estoy por’ is similar to the English, ‘I’m about to’.


5 Acabo de cumplir ‘x’ años – I just turned ‘x’

Similarly, you can answer ‘acabo de cumplir’+ number of years + ‘años’, if you’ve celebrated your birthday recently.

Solicitando una licencia de conducir

Encargado – ¿Qué edad tiene?

Solicitante – 35…¡No! Perdón*; acabo de cumplir 36 esta semana.



Applying for a driver’s license

Desk manager – How old are you?

Applicant – 35 … No! Sorry, I just turned 36 this week.

*Erika’s note – ‘perdón’ and ‘disculpe’ are both synonyms of ‘sorry’.


6 ‘x’ / ‘x’ años – ‘x’ years

In casual conversations you’ll hear people simply answering with their age, oftentimes accompanied by the word ‘años’ (or ‘years’), but sometimes leaving it out entirely.

Claudia – ¿Cuántos años tienes?

Joaquín – Treinta y cuatro.



Claudia – How old are you?

Joaquin – Thirty-four.


Final thoughts

So, there you have it, quite a few ways to respond to ‘how old are you’ in Spanish!

I recommend you start with a simple ‘tengo ‘x’ años’ and, as you gain confidence, you can try a few more complex answers.

Ready to level up your conversation skills? Head next to out article on all the different ways to say me too’ in Spanish.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Rupert's lived in Mexico for nearly a decade and has been working as a Spanish teacher for even longer (over 10 years now, wow!). He specializes in simple (yet effective) explanations and is a veritable grammar-whizz.

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