Adult Vs of age

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Xavier da Silva

Senior Member
Hello everyone,

I've been doing research on this topic and I have a question: which option (adult or of age) sounds natural/correct in the examples I made below, meaning "be legally allowed to do something because you're old enough"?

a. Officer: You cannot buy alcoholic drinks. John: I can buy alcoholic drinks. I am an adult. Vs Officer: You cannot buy alcoholic drinks. John: I can buy alcoholic drinks. I am of age.
b. Michael: I'd like three beers to go. Store owner: Are you an adult? Vs Michael: I'd like three beers to go. Store owner: Are you of age?

*I think the option "of age" is the correct one because it sounds more natural, but I'm not sure.

Thank you in advance!
 
Last edited:
  • PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    "Of age" = of the legal age. It is used in references to when there is a statutory age limit on an action.

    "Adult is a vaguer term. In the UK, you are legally an adult at age 18, but there are some age restrictions that are lower than 18 (you can marry at 16) and higher (you have to be 21 to drive a bus.) If someone says "I saw an adult and a child walking towards the bridge." the default meaning is "someone who is likely to be a parent of the child -> i.e. someone around 30 years old.

    However, I have to tell you that the conversations are not idiomatic. The conversations would be:

    a. Officer: You cannot buy alcohol here. John: I can buy alcohol. I am 18.
    b. Michael: I'd like three beers to go. Store owner: Are you 18?

    Or


    a. Officer: Are you old enough to buy alcoholic drinks? John: Yes - I'm 18. Officer: Do you have any I.D?
    b. Michael: I'd like three beers to go (BE = to take out.) Store owner: How old are you? John: Yes - I'm 18. Store owner: Do you have any I.D?
     

    Xavier da Silva

    Senior Member
    I found an answer here by Sparky Malarky (American English), which is also good reference:

    You might also want to say of full legal age in some contexts. For example, in some parts of the United States, you can vote, can serve in the military, and have most rights of an adult at 18, but you cannot buy alcohol until you are 21. So saying you're of legal age can be a bit vague. Of age to do what? Buy a car? Inherit property? Be tried as an adult, not a juvenile, if you commit a crime?

    You can also simply say you're of age, if the context is clear. "You want to buy some beer for the party? But aren't you underage?" "No, I'm of age now."

    However full of legal age is incorrect.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    I don't know when Sparky wrote that, but I believe 21 is now the minimum age to buy, consume, etc. alcoholic beverages in all 50 states. (I believe this came about because so many people under 21 in states where that was the minimum age and who lived near the border with a state where it was lower, drove to them to drink (e.g. NJ 21, NY 18) and got involved in fatal accidents while driving home drunk, the Federal government decided to refuse highway funding to states whose legal drinking age was under 21.)
     
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