[i] Susan married Ed. (RHD)
[ii] My sister got married last fall. (COCA)

Is there a passive implication in [ii]? That is, the families and so on arrange and perform the marriage ceremonies for two people, and through all this the two get married. Is this implied in the expression [ii], and not in [i]?

  • Related: (am/are/is) being married. – choster Jul 18 '14 at 14:22
  • Susan got married to Ed. is an alternate construction for [i]. My sister married last fall. or My sister married Joe last fall. are alternate constructions for [ii]. Nothing is "active" or "passive" here. As pointed out by others, "married" could mean that Susan officiated at a wedding (the names of those being married would have to be given), but that does not appear to be the case in either example. – Phil Perry Jul 18 '14 at 16:59
  • 1
    This is called a get-passive, but your "passive implication" concept is unclear to me. – snailplane Jul 19 '14 at 3:06

In most modern countries, a wedding ceremony has two main elements: a couple 'actively' exchange vows (they marry, or one marries the other (your first sentence)), then 'passively' have a pronouncement made to them (and to their families, friends and community) by a representative of the state (they get married (your second sentence)).

  • 1
    What? You are needlessly complicating the issue. There is nothing in either phrase that denotes active or passive, or two phases of a ceremony. – Phil Perry Jul 18 '14 at 17:01
  • Show me a modern country which does not require both of those steps. The couple exchanging vows by themselves has no legal effect in the absence of a pronouncement by an authorised celebrant, and the celebrant's pronouncement by itself has no legal effect (or the legal effect can be annulled) in the absence of consent by the couple. – Sydney Jul 18 '14 at 23:59
  • Whether anyone actually thinks about 'marrying/marriage' in those terms, that is the legal foundation for it. – Sydney Jul 19 '14 at 0:32

No, there is no passive implication in [ii]. 'Married' and 'got married' are synonymous here.


Yes, but only in the grammatical sense of "passive", and even then it's mostly a technicality. There is certainly no implication in [ii] that your sister was not actively involved in planning the wedding, unlike Susan in [i].

Before I go on, let me point out that "to marry [someone]" has two meanings:

  1. To become married to [someone].
  2. To officiate at [someone]'s marriage, e.g. as a religious official or a civil celebrant.

As SydneyAustraliaESLTeacher's answer says, the literal meaning of "got married" is that you have been the recipient of an action ("married", sense 2). However, sense 2 is falling out of usage, at least in my corner of the world (Australia).*

As a result, "to get married" is, in my experience, treated as if it were an active verb. (It may count as a phrasal verb.)

* If I say "Jim married my friends", it clearly means that Jim was the officiant at the wedding, but it would give many people pause; they would need a moment's thought to work out that I'm not talking about polygamy! As a child, I once got very confused reading about the origins of Valentine's Day, when Saint Valentine got in trouble for marrying many Roman soldiers...


Since (modern, Western culture) marriages are always arranged by the two people themselves, there is no implication of passiveness in either [i] or [ii]. To suggest that the families arranged the marriage, you'd have to include quite explicit terms or context. Even...

We married off my sister last fall.

...would be seen mostly figuratively: the family may have had some part of it, and likely approve of the wedding, but it was not a "passive" thing for either the sister or her new husband: they were adults who actively decided, of their own will, to get married.

If we were speaking of a context and culture where marriages are often arranged, then [ii], or my above sentence, would be implied to be arranged marriages. You could also be quite explicit using the term "arranged marriage", which would work even without context:

We married off my sister last fall, in an arranged marriage.

This is defined by Oxford University Press as:

arranged marriage

A marriage planned and agreed to by the families or guardians of the bride and groom, who have little or no say in the matter themselves.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.