Suppose a book consists of three sections:

The book is/was divided into three sections.

I am thinking the past tense option "was" should be used, because the act of dividing the book into three sections happened at the time of writing.
Is my analysis good?

  • and is divided no more, and would be divided no more as well? – Lucian Sava Jul 18 '14 at 9:38
  • I don't think there is direct pointing to the time of writing here. Look, " the cake was divided into three pieces" - is it about of the time of cooking or later? – Ruslan Gerasimov Jul 18 '14 at 9:49
  • The present tense in conjunction with the past participle of a transitive verb can refer to a resulting state. The cow is milked because the cow has been milked. The race is run because the race has been run. The house is painted because the house has been painted. The cake is divided into eight pieces because the cake has been divided into eight pieces. The question is answered because the question has been answered. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Apr 25 '17 at 12:04

This depends on the context. If, for example, you were using divided as a past tense verb, like this:

The book was too long, so it was divided into three sections

Then was is fine.

However, if you are describing the format of a book, like this:

This book is divided into three sections

The divided is used in the past participle, ie a verb made into an adjective, so we use is, just as with any other adjective.

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  • Is it correct to write "the population is divided into three ethnic groups" even though there is no external agent doing the dividing? – meatie Jul 18 '14 at 11:48
  • Yes - it's the past participle again. – user8543 Jul 18 '14 at 12:03
  • I understand the result-sense of "divided". But, it is not like a population could be divided into ethnic groups on a whim. The ethnicity of the individuals could not be changed to suit some ethnicity-based division scheme. – meatie Jul 18 '14 at 13:21
  • Regardless of when x was divided, assuming it is still divided you use is. – user8543 Jul 18 '14 at 14:16
  • Maybe there is a sense of "divided" that I cannot find in the dictionary. – meatie Jul 18 '14 at 14:23

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