What is the tense of the following sentence?

They are married.

and what is the part of speech for the word "married"? is it Adjective or Past Verb


3 Answers 3


Married is a past participle (not a simple past) employed as an adjective. The sentence is in the present tense, marked by the present form are.

Past participles of transitive verbs are employed in passive constructions (BE + past participle), so they very readily come to be used as adjectives describing the state which is imposed by the action of the verb.

For instance, if I lost my keys yesterday, this may be expressed in the passive by saying that my keys were lost yesterday. Today (unless I find them again) I may say that my keys are lost; this is no longer a passive event but a description of my keys: they are in a 'lost' state. And when I do find my keys again I will be able to say that they are found.

Likewise, if two people marry each other we may narrate the event as a passive: Jack and Susan were married yesterday; but the consequence is that they are now in the 'married' state, and we say that they are married.

Lambie points out that with marry the passive version is not in present-day English an ordinary transformation of the active: they were not married by each other, but by a third party: "Jack and Susan were married by Rev. Blovious". But the passive does nonetheless give rise to expressing the state they now enjoy as married.

  • My keys were lost yesterday (by me) is a passive verb. They are married describes a condition. I lost my keys, my keys were lost. BUT NOT: I married him, he was married by me. To be plus a past participle describes a condition. It is not an action verb as in I lost my keys yesterday.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 18:47
  • @Lambie No; but Jack and Susan are married as a consequence of being married by the parson. I have added a footnote to make this clear. Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 18:56
  • @StoneyB Never mind. My main point was not that. I felt you were using an incorrect example to explain this usage. I just think my explanation is simple and does not entail: my keys were lost, where lost is a passive verb, and I gave several examples of similar uses where there is not the possibility of reading the verb as a passive. It annoys me that people downvote (I am not saying it was you) when they really are clueless about grammar.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 19:10
  • @StoneyB I'm not sure your footnote clarifies matters. The parson married John and Susan yesterday is active voice, after all. My father-in-law is a priest, and my mother-in-law once informed me that he had married his godchild the previous week.
    – verbose
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 23:49
  • @StoneyB could you help me with these: “They were married by the priest" and “They were married and happy.” can we use your description with these two sentences?
    – Shannak
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 8:55

(To) be married, be finished, be dumbstruck

The form: (To) + verb: be + past participle (some people say adjective but that is academic, not practical) is used to describe a person's or thing's state or condition. The past participle (or adjective) is the state or condition a person or thing is in.

  1. We are finished with this book.

  2. We are married now but for a long time we weren't.

  3. To be understood, questions have to be clear.
  4. The nurses are exhausted on weekends.
  • So, Is it an active or passive voice?
    – Shannak
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 19:52
  • Active: The boys play tennis Passive: Tennis is played by the boys. Active and passive only apply to action verbs. Active: John sweeps the kitchen Passive; The kitchen is swept by John. Active: John marries Mary on Monday Passive: it does not exist. You cannot say: Mary is married by John. So, your question is incorrect. Please look at my examples for others like THIS. to be + some state or condition. Not active verbs. Therefore, it is neither active or passive because to marry is not an action verb.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 21:02
  • It's like: to be rich, sick, funny but it's the past participle of the verb used as an adjective. I explained it and even gave lots of examples.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 21:03
  • Is "dumbstruck" a past participle?
    – verbose
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 23:46
  • Maybe not. Bad example. Sorry. /they are surprised by your attitude/ would be better.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 0:15

The tense of this sentence is present simple as the main verb here is "are". Regarding married's part of speech, it is an adjectival. "Adjectival" is a term used in linguistics, especially in syntax, which means a word that is not an adjective, but that has the adjective position in the sentence.

So the form of "married" is verb, but its position is adjectival so the answer of your question is that "married" is not an adjective like "beautiful" or "amazing" but it works as an adjective in this sentence as it shows the status of the subject "they".


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