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I was thinking about the question "How old is your father?". I know that I can use oikutsu for "How old are YOU." But can I use it also for "she / he"? So, "how old is your father", could I ask "あなたのお父さんはおいくつですか。" ? And yes, I use "anata", you can also think just of a name! :) Thanks!

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    あなた or a name isn't even necessary. You can entirely remove it from that sentence. – Aeon Akechi Feb 6 '17 at 21:08
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    If you are asking someone the age of THEIR father, your assumption is correct: "お父さんはおいくつですか。?" But if you ask someone the age of the father of a mutual friend, then it may be closer to general (as opposed to personal) information, for which "何歳ですか?" can be used. – Craig Hicks Feb 7 '17 at 0:25
  • However for anyone おいくつですか is used as common phrase in shop. The answer of somagumi is good. hinative.com/ja/questions/981805 – Takahiro Waki Feb 7 '17 at 16:19
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Short answer: Yes, you can.

Long answer: Yes, you can, but you must be careful not to make an easy-to-make mistake that could make it rude.

「幾つ(いくつ)」 originally comes from the Japanese way of counting (ひとつ、ふたつ), with 「幾」 here meaning "how many".「何歳(なんさい)」 is obviously the 音読み way of reading derived from the old Chinese pronunciation.

When you ask a child how old they are, you ask 「いくつですか?」. However, when you ask an adult, it would be extremely rude to ask them the same way you would a child. Make sure to add the 「お」 as you have already correctly done to avoid offending anyone.

As you probably already know, 「何歳ですか」 can be used, but it's not as polite as 「お幾つですか」. Especially in your case, since you are asking about someone's parents, it would be good to show respect by using 「お幾つ」.

Do be careful though, excessive use of 尊敬語 instead of the normal 敬語 can make it seem like you are trying to put more distance between you and the person you are asking about in your relationship with them. If you are pretty close to the person you are asking the age of in both age and relationship, 「何歳」 could be a better option.

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  • I felt the poster's question was about indirect relationships. Specifically, about the parent of a friend. Supposing the poster's friend was someone whom the poster would use "何歳" . And supposing the friends father was someone with whom the poster would use "御幾つですか". Then what should the poster use when asking the friend about the her father? I believe in that specific instance, then answer should be ""御幾つですか". – Craig Hicks Feb 7 '17 at 7:23
  • @CraigHicks We are in complete agreement then. :) It's the speaker's relationship with their target, not the listener, that would likely determine which is used. Exceptions obviously would exist (asking the age of a customer's child, for example) but generally we'd be right. I do see your point, so I will make a note of it to improve the answer. – Halfway Dillitante Feb 7 '17 at 10:10

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