Grammar

Did We Really Just Begin a Brand New Decade?

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Every time the tens digit in a year changes, people begin insisting we’ve just started a new decade. But is that really true?

What really constitutes the beginning of a new decade?

There are two ways to look at it so the answer depends on the situation and how you look at it. So here’s why there’s a great deal of confusion over whether it truly begins on Jan. 1, 2020, or Jan. 1., 2021.

The term, of course, means 10 years. But we refer to decades differently because of that pesky tens digit in the year.

For the ‘20s, it’s a new decade.

If you referred to the years 2010 through 2019 as the Teens, you know right away that 20 is not a teen. So, 2020 would not be part of what we’d call the teens.

When you’re referring to the Twenties (whether you mean the “Roaring Twenties” of the 20th century or whatever they’ll be branded in the 21st), you mean 2020-2029.

That’s why people easily assume that when that tens digit changes, the change signifies the start of another decade.

It makes perfect sense.

And it’s the reason for the confusion.

You see, there was no Year Zero.

Things become complicated…and too mathematical for many at this point.

If you think back to the very first 10 years A.D., they began with the year 1 A.D. There was no 0 A.D. That means the very first decade went from 1 to 10 A.D. Year 10 was the 10th year of that span.

That makes perfect sense, too.

The second decade began in year 11 and continued through year 20. At the end of year 20, when year 21 began, the third decade of the First Century A.D., also began.

If you continue through many, many decades, that means the first decade of the 21st century really began on Jan. 1, 2001. The second began on Jan. 1, 2011.

And the next one doesn’t begin until Jan. 1, 2021.

We went through this in 2009, too. But unlike many blogs, this one has actually been around long enough to have mentioned it way back then!

1 Comment

  1. You are correct, of course. You’d think we all would have learned it from the change in millennia, NINETEEN years ago. However, this particular year just has to be used as a change in decades. After all, it perfectly fits the “Decade in Review” stories; 2020 hindsight! 🙂

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.