Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 4 of 16)

Eldest or oldest? What’s the difference? Both words refer to those greater in age. The difference is that eldest can be used only to related individuals, such as, “Jack is my eldest living relative.” Oldest is more general and fits most situations.

Eldest and oldest are what we call the superlative—meaning more than two. James is older than I am; Harold is the oldest of the three brothers. It grates on me when someone refers to “my oldest sister, Anne,” when he has only two female siblings. In that case, he should have written, “my older sister, Anne.”

As a growing writer, I’m aware of correct word usage.

1 comment:

  1. I am still a bit confused about the proper usage of "elder" and "eldest". In this post you say that "eldest" and "oldest" must refer to two or more. Did you mean to say "three or more", or am I mistaken?

    I have three adult children, two sons and one daughter. When speaking of my firstborn, I say that he is the eldest of the three. But when I am referring to my two sons, I say he is the elder. Am I wrong?

    My husband, whose first language was Polish, says that Polish is more complicated than English, which is hard for me to fathom!


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