Teen vs. Tween

14 July 2023

Hi there. This week on Ask a Teacher, we will answer a question about the difference between "teen" and "tween."


Hello VOA Learning English,

Ask a Teacher: Teen vs. Tween
Ask a Teacher: Teen vs. Tween

I am Abdirohim from Somalia. Could you kindly explain and further explore the differences and usage between these two words: "tweens" and "teens?''




Thanks for you for this interesting question, Abdirohim! Both words refer to very young people.

There are major differences in the ages of these two groups. Let's look not only at the meanings of these two words but also how they were made. Let's start with "teen."


The word "teen" is a noun that means a young person from ages thirteen to nineteen. We get this word from the ending of the numbers, like thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, and so on.

Many teens enjoy hanging out with their friends.

When he was a teen, he loved the Beatles music.

We combine "teen" with "age" to make "teenage," an adjective that describes someone who is in their teens.

The movie "Mean Girls" is about a group of teenage girls in high school.

We can also add an "-er" ending to "teenage" to make another noun with the same meaning as "teen."

Some teenagers like to go against their parents.

Now, let's move on to "tween."


The word "tween" is a blend of the two words "teen" and "between."

It is a special blend word since it combines not only the spellings of the two words but the meanings as well. The word is used to describe the age group between a child and a teenager. The earliest age for "tweens" is eight or nine years old, and the oldest age goes up to twelve.

Many tweens go to a middle school after completing elementary and before going to high school.

Maria looks after tweens who are not old enough to be by themselves.

We also call this group of young people "preteens," with the prefix "pre" to mean "before."

A fun fact about the history of "tween" is that it may have come from JRR Tolkien who wrote The Lord of the Ring books. Some say he came up with "tween" to describe an in-between age for his characters called "hobbits."

Please let us know if these explanations and examples have helped you, Abdirohim.

Do you know any other blend words in English or have a question about them? You can send these and other questions you have about American English to our email at learningenglish@voanews.com.

And that's Ask a Teacher.

I'm Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

blendn. a word made by combining parts of two words

elementaryadj. relating to or teaching the basic subjects of education

character –n. a person who appears in a story, for example in a book or television show