American Business English

American Business English :

How Old Are You?

PATTY : I’m really excited for Aunt Mary’s surprise birthday party this afternoon! Aren’t you?

SUSAN : Yeah! How old is she?

PATTY : She’ll be 55 on May 14 [fourteenth].

SUSAN : Wow! I didn’t know that my mom was older — she’s going to be 57 on September 2 [second]. Anyway, Aunt Mary’s going to be so surprised to see us all here!

PATTY : I know! But we still have to get all the food set up before she gets here … OK! We’re all ready now. Shh! She’s here!

ALL : Surprise!


I’m really excited … Notice the emphasis on “really." “Really" is used to emphasize the adjective “excited" here.

Birthday party Notice that the normal stress for a compound noun falls on the first element of the compound.

Aren’t you? This negative tag is used to show that the speaker expects a positive answer. Patty assumes that Susan is also looking forward to the party.

She’ll be 55 Notice that 55 is stressed here. This detail answers the question “How old is she?"

Fourteenth Notice that we use “th" for ordinal numbers, starting with 4 [but first, second and third]. The stress is on the second syllable [fourTEENTH]. Compare this with “fortieth: 40th" [FORtieth].

She’s going to be ... Notice how this is pronounced like “gonna be." Instead of four syllables “go/ing/to/be" there are three syllables “ga/na/be."

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