how to say 'old' in greek: παλιός vs μεγάλος

Hello and welcome to another episode of 
~ Daria fixes Google Translate’s Mistakes ~

In this episode, we are learning how to say old (not new / not young) in Greek.
The vast majority of greek learners, when talking about their grandparents, they'll say something like ''Ο παππούς μου είναι παλιός'' because παλιός = old,

right?  


Well, mostly.
Let me explain.

'Παλιός' is used to talk about objects, not about a person's age.
An old car (παλιό αμάξι), an old road roller (παλιός οδοστρωτήρας), a tale as old as time (ιστορία παλιά όσο ο χρόνος),
all these can be παλιός / παλιά / παλιό etc.

To help remember this, think that in English we have the word 'paleontology', which is the study of super-duper old things.

The word we use for age is 'μεγάλος'. (= big, old, great, mighty)
Sometimes we add the phrase ‘σε ηλικία’ (= in age) for clarity / formality:

Ο παππούς μου είναι μεγάλος (σε ηλικία) και δεν καταλαβαίνει τι είναι το dabbing, αλλά η γιαγιά μου, που είναι πιο μεγάλη, κάνει dab στους haters, #γιόλο.

Alternatively, you can use the words ηλικιωμένος = elderly.
In my experience, because of the many different meanings of μεγάλος, occasionally even native speakers feel the need to clarify:
- Ο Γιώργος είναι μεγάλος.*
- ... Μεγάλος σε ηλικία;
But using the word ηλικιωμένος is perfectly descriptive so no clarification required. 👌🏻

* * *

We can still use παλιός when referring to humans, but in different circumstances, very similar to English.
For example:

- talking about people who lived in 𝖙𝖍𝖊 𝖔𝖑𝖉𝖊𝖓 𝖉𝖆𝔂𝖘:
Οι παλιοί άνθρωποι δεν είχαν ίντερνετ.
Old people didn't have internet.
(as in, people back in the day, regardless of age)

- talking about people you knew a long time ago / you’ve known for a long time:
Ο Λούις είναι παλιός μου μαθητής.
Lewis is an old student of mine.
Ο Λουίς είναι παλιός μου φίλος.
Lewis is an old friend of mine.

If your old fiend happens to be also old in age, you can say 
Ο Λουίς είναι παλιός μου φίλος, και είναι μεγάλος (σε ηλικία) / ηλικιωμένος.

* * *

Oh, and keep in mind:
To say your age you use neither 'παλιός' nor 'μεγάλος'. You say 'χρονών':
Είμαι είκοσι πέντε χρονών.
I am 25 years old. (lit: I am of 25 years)



And there you have it.
Παλιός for objects' age,
Μεγάλος / Ηλικιωμένος for people's (or animals'!) age.

Keep dabbin' on the haters,
👵🏻 Daria Grammaria.

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