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I do not know how to differentiate between the "Alter" of some alone and a group of people. What is the plural of "Alter"? Or is using "Alter" as plural customary?

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2  
Alter hat keinen Plural. "Meine Großeltern sind im Alter von 85 bzw. 89 Jahren gestorben." - "Profifußballer sind für gewöhnlich im Alter von 18-35 Jahre." - "Das Alter der Planeten X und Y ist noch nicht bestimmt." –  Em1 Dec 12 '13 at 17:01

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

»Alter« as in »what's your age?« is simply never used in plural form in German. [Edit: Okay, looks like some people use the plural form. Still, singular is much, much more common.]

However, the plural form does exist as can be seen by compound forms like »Zeitalter« (historic age) or »Erdzeitalter« (aeons/eons in English/geology):

Der Geologe kennt alle Erdzeitalter auswendig. He knows all the eons (their sequence) by heart.

Deklination:

singular: das Alter, des Alters, dem Alter, das Alter

plural: die Alter, der Alter, den Altern, die Alter

Not much of a difference in form, as you can see.

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Of course, the plural of Alter exists and is used, albeit seldomly: Die Alter der Schüler reichen von 9 bis 19. –  Toscho Dec 13 '13 at 8:25
    
@Toscho: You'd usually say Das Alter der Schüler reicht von 9 bis 19. I've never heard die Alter myself (which is not to say that it doesn't exist). –  Thorsten Dittmar Dec 13 '13 at 10:54
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You can say both. In plural, you are referencing the set {Alter des Schülers|Schüler in Klasse}. In singular, you are referencing the mapping Schüler → Alter. –  Toscho Dec 13 '13 at 13:02
    
@Toscho - Kann sein, daß es hier und da benutzt wird. Mir klingt es ungewohnt. –  Lumi Dec 14 '13 at 19:27

According to Wahrig, „Alter“ is uncountable, but Duden gives „die Alter“ as the plural. I agree with Duden, even if the plural is rarely used. The plural certainly is correct for the compound nouns that Ingo mentions.

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A common term for age group in German is "Altersklasse", which has the regular plural form "Altersklassen".

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True, but how does that relate to the question? Carsten, an age grouper ;) –  Carsten Schultz Dec 13 '13 at 14:40
    
@Bengt stated that he didn't know 'how to differentiate between the "Alter" of some alone and a group of people'. I believe my answer helps a little there. :) –  elena Dec 16 '13 at 9:42

If you mean:

das Alter - (i.e. age)

then it really has no plural, though usually composites like "das Zeitalter" or "das Menschenalter" have one.

If you mean the salutation like in:

"Eyy, Alter, hast du mal 'n Euro?"

then "Alter" is not really a substantive, but an ellipsis of "alter Mann".

There also exist

der Alte
die Alte

and the plural is

die Alten

like in "Altenheim" - a home for elder ones.

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2  
If Alter is used as in Eyy, Alter, hast du mal'n Euro? then the plural is surely Alterz. –  Toscho Dec 13 '13 at 8:26
    
And Alter has the plural Alter. See comment on Lumi's answer. –  Toscho Dec 13 '13 at 8:27
    
A word of warning for non-native speakers: Never use "Alter" as salutation! Its meaning is just like 'ey, buddy...' –  Black Dec 20 '13 at 11:35

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