4

For example: someone who is '二十来岁'

Does it mean:

  1. Someone in his twenties (20-29)

  2. Someone in his early twenties (20-23 or 25)

  3. Someone who is about twenty years old (might be 19, 20, 21 etc.)

(sorry for not putting any research, can't find any)

  • '来' = 'some' or 'little more than' here. "二十(来)岁" = "20 (some) years old" or "(little more than) 20 years old" – Tang Ho Feb 26 '18 at 11:49
  • then saying 'early' would be correct here? Someone in his early twenties, early thirties etc. – Fai91 Feb 26 '18 at 11:55
  • 二十来岁 is certainly over 20; usually 21-26; if you are 27 or 29, we would say you are 近三十岁; "early to mid twenties" is more accurate. – Tang Ho Feb 26 '18 at 11:56
  • If you say " that man is 20 some years old" in English, his age could be between 21-26. May be 27 the max. If he is 28 or 29, you would say "that man is close to 30 years old"; Of course, some 29 years old person would insist he or she is "20 some years old" – Tang Ho Feb 26 '18 at 12:06
  • It’s funny《规范》says 助 用在“十”“百”“千”等整数或数量短语后面, 表示概数, 通常略小于那个数目 - used for rounding, usually it’s a little less than the rounded number. I always thought 来 meant more than or over. – user3306356 Feb 26 '18 at 14:30
2

Base on the two different answers from user6065 and steveLangsford, my conclusion is, "the dictionary definition of 来 really should be a '概数' (approximate number) synonym to '上下' or '左右'. Which mean 二十來岁 = 二十岁左右 (approximately twenty)

But in practice, most people see 来 as a synonym of 几 and eventually became accepted fact that "二十来岁" means "二十几岁 (twenty something)"

1

see grammars (or dictionaries):"外国人实用汉语语法"

概数(4)数词"十、百、千、万"等后边常加"来"表示接近前边的数词。例如:这儿有三十来把椅子。

"实用现代汉语语法"

概数的表示法

(二)1。[来]"来"表示接近前面数词所表示的数目,可能略多,也可能略少,相差不能太远,只用于整数。如"十来个"表示八九个到十一二个,"一百来个"表示比一百多几个或少几个。用"来"表示概数时,应该注意以下几点:

(1)"来"如在量词后,它限制整个数量短语,如"十斤来肉","来"限制"十斤",表示大约九斤八九两到十斤一二两;如果"来"在数量短语中间,它只限制前面的数词,如"十来斤肉"表示八九斤到十一二斤。

(2)"来"的位置。"来"用在名量词后,位置与名量词的种类有关。我们把名量词分为两大类:一类表示连续的量,可以再分割的,如度量衡单位"斤"、"两"、"尺"、"寸",表示时间的"年"、"月"、"天",表示组织机构的"连"、"排"、"班"等,这类量词所表示的单位是由更小的单位组成的。"如"一斤有十两","一年有十二个月"等等。另一类是表示非连续的量,不能再分割的,用个体量词表示,如"个"、"只"、"把"等。"来"与表示连续量的量词连用时,有两种位置,可分别称为A式和B式:

A式:数词(只能是以0结尾的,如10、100、20000)+"来"+量词(+名词)。如"五十来里(路)"、"三百来斤(米)"、"四千来尺(布)"、"三十来年(时间)"。

B式:数词(以1、2。。。9结尾的及10)+量词+"来"+名词。如"五里来路"、'六斤来肉"、"十尺来布"。

A式中量词后的名词有时可省略去不说。B式中的数词以1- 10为多,10以上的有时也可以,如"二十五里来路,一会儿就到了",但比较少用。数词为10时,"来"有两种位置:"十来斤米"、"十斤来米"。但如前所述,所表达的意思不同。

"来"与表示非连续量的量词连用时,只能位于数词后,数词只限于以"0"结尾的,即A式:数词(以0结尾)+"来"+量词(+名词)。如"十来个(人)"、"三十来本(书)"、"三千来棵(树)",名词可以省略不说。

(3)当数字超过"十万"时,一般不在"万"、"亿"后边用"来",如一般不说"一百三十万来人"、"十二亿来人口",但可以在"万"、"亿"前用"来",如"一百三十来万人"、"十来亿美元"。

(4)多用于口语。

"汉语800虚词用法词典"

来(助)(aux) used after round numbers such as 十,百 and 千 to indicate approximation

1.用在"十、百、千"等数词后面表示概数。(1)看样子,我们老师已经五十来岁了。(2)现在每个班都是二十来人。(3)你顶多就就一百来斤重,胖什么呀,一点儿都不胖。(4)今年我们学院有两千名留学生。(5)绕操场跑一圈也就四百来米。(6)他来中国已经十来年了,难怪他汉语说得那么好。2。用在个位数后,表示概书。"来"要放在量词后。used after a numeral under 10 to indicate approximation;来 should occur after the measure word (1)校园里这个湖也就五米来深。

(2)这条河大概有八米来宽。(3)游泳池最深的地方也就两米来深。(4)这个阳台三米来长。(5)你要有两米来高的话,篮球队可能就来找你了。

according to "实用现代汉语语法" the answer is 3 (or maybe 18--22)

  • Cantonese often say "十八廿二" instead of "二十岁左右" when describing "late teen" or "youth" . "十八廿二" is actually a common term for 'young adult' – Tang Ho Feb 26 '18 at 21:07
  • Which mean 来 is synonym of '上下' or '左右' . But in practice, many people thought 来 is synonym of '几' or '多'. If you ask people "二十来岁 means 二十几岁 or 二十岁左右?" I bet more than half of them would say "二十几岁" – Tang Ho Feb 26 '18 at 21:29
1

Almost identical to the English "twenty-something" Definitely more than 20, would be slightly odd to use for someone in the upper end of that decade.

1

My take to 来 in this context is that it's equivalent to or so in English.

So, 二十来岁 is the colloquial phrasing, meaning twenty years old or so. The phrase is typically used when we try to estimate one's age by his looking and we believe his age is around twenty(but usually listeners might think his age would be a bit above twenty).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.