In Italian, to say when I was born, I would use the present tense followed by the past participle.

Sono nato il 18 marzo 1970. (I was born on 3/18/1970.)

The reasoning behind that is that I am talking about a fact that is still relevant nowadays (i.e., I am still alive).

The same would be true if I say about somebody's death: For example, talking about J.F. Kennedy, I would say J.F. Kennedy è morto il 22 novembre 1963.

In English, what tense should I use when talking about somebody's date of death, the simple past, the present perfect, or the simple present?


1 Answer 1


In English, you use the simple past for events that occurred completely in the past, including being born or dying.

I was born on May 1st, 1958.
He died on the 30th of September.

We don't use the perfect for being born or dying, whether or not the person remains alive or dead. That said, it is possible to use the perfect tense, but the rules are the same as for any other verb or condition and aren't special to being born or dying.

  • By the rules do you mean also don't use the perfect tense if it's not strictly necessary?
    – apaderno
    Dec 31, 2016 at 17:22
  • Newspaper headlines will say: "[CELEBRITY NAME] is dead.." and the present perfect is also common as in: "[NAME] has died in a road accident..."
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 31, 2016 at 17:38
  • @kiamlaluno - I just mean the usual ways and standards for using the perfect. We generally use the perfect to relate a past event to another event, like *"The doctor came as fast as he could, but Johnson had already died."
    – stangdon
    Dec 31, 2016 at 18:00

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