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I am going to make up a sentence below.

(ex) John got married at a late age ( or at an old age).

Do both "late" and "old" work in my sentence?

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Short Answer

No, I wouldn't say that they both work.

Long Answer

But honestly, it's a matter of opinion.

Longer Answer

If you take a look at this Ngram, you'll see that the most common way (based on Google Ngram's sources) is, "later in life" and the second-most common is "at a later age."

Google Ngram: at a late age,at a later age,at an old age,at an older age,later in life

As in, we'd usually say, "John got married later in life" or "John got married at a later age."

(Some would say that this is because the former is more polite because it keeps the focus on "getting married" while the other three draw attention to the age itself :)).

Meanwhile, we wouldn't usually use "late" because while getting married later in life is less usual, there is no "right" age to be married at, and therefore, there is no "late" age to be married at.

There is only "earlier" or "later" in comparison with "the usual."

But as I said, it's a matter of opinion.

Grammatically, your sentence is fine.

Idiomatically, semantically, socially (or etiquette-wise), etc., you may want to consider other options :).

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"John got married at a late age" is fine.

"Old" doesn't work well in that context; "an" doesn't go with "old" in this sentence. "Old age" describes a stage or phase of life. John got married at some specific age. "A/an" are used with "countable" or "unitized" things. Age at marriage is a specific age, so the sentence is referring to age in a unitized form, which isn't consistent with "old age". Use of "old" would be better as, "John got married in his old age".

Another alternative: "John got married in his later years" or "John got married late in life".

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  • "An" refers to a specific age? I guess, a/an is used to modify non-specific nouns. Feb 24 '17 at 9:21
  • @AhmbroDude, good catch. That wasn't really the meaning I was referring to. Let me try to reword it. Thanks.
    – fixer1234
    Feb 24 '17 at 9:25

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