When we use past participle we should add other additional clause as past participle cannot usually stand alone on its own.

If we have to use a single clause we usually prefer simple past as in "We were married for two years" But how about "dead", could I say

“he was dead for two years”

instead of

“he had been dead for two years”

2 Answers 2


Both your examples mean that the condition no longer applies in the present. "We were married for two years, but then got divorced". You could say "He was dead for two years" but it would imply that he was no longer dead, he has been resurrected. An unlikely scenario. What would make a bit more sense is "He died 2 years ago" or "He has been dead 2 years"

  • do you not think "Has been been dead for 2 years" is better instead of "He has been dead 2 years" which could mean that he has been ressurecated after 2 years Mar 12 at 15:27
  • @BilalZafar No, they mean the same thing. "He has been dead 2 years" would be understood to imply "and he still is dead" adding "for" does not change the meaning. Mar 12 at 17:03
  • 1
    The only other interpretation of "He was dead for two years" is the fiction plot line (and occasionally in real life) of someone faking their death or being lost in the jungle and then being found alive. But it would usually be stated "He was presumed dead for 2 years but found alive and well living in Blackpool" Mar 12 at 17:07
  • .Cheers. One last query pls.I still believe "He has been married ten years"/with out for.Could have two interpretation as in "He has been married "For" ten years" and "He is not any long married, his marriage was ten years long). Kindly enlighten me here Mar 12 at 17:58
  • He was dead for two years and suddenly woke up to the reality of his beautiful life.

  • He had been dead for two years when he suddenly woke up to the reality of his beautiful life.

This has nothing to do with single or double clauses. In the second sentence above, the past prefect merely says what his condition had been BEFORE he woke up [simple past].

The past perfect always implies the occurrence of something in the simple past which precedes it. This can be said outright or it can be implied.

Also, this is about verb tenses and not about past participles.

  • but in your first example with "was dead" is also before he woke up so I don't see a big difference here.
    – Yves Lefol
    Mar 12 at 17:16
  • @user5577 It depends on the emphasis you wish to place on the time references. He was tired when he opened the door. VERSUS He had been tired when he opened the door. They basically mean the same thing but the second makes it very clear that temporally one thing precedes the other most definitely.
    – Lambie
    Mar 12 at 17:33

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