One of the good actors in Bollywood, Sadashiv Amarapurkar died recently (RIP).

I was reading the news and came across this paragraph on Times Of India

Sadashiv Amrapurkar is married to his high school sweetheart, Sunanda Karmarkar. Be it in school or college, Sadashiv was always interested in acting.

I wonder using a present verb there or that's okay? Do we use the present tense verb to describe some dead person's relation? To me, Sadashiv Amrapurkar was married... seems preferable.

  • I guess the phrase usually used is "He is survived by his wife". Oops, wrong: only 344 results at Google. – CowperKettle Nov 3 '14 at 5:15
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    yes - 'was married' seems correct. Using 'is married' for a person who's dead doesnt make sense. If it does then if we use 'he is married' wouldnt it be confusing whether he is dead or alive? - – Leo Nov 3 '14 at 5:15
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    @CopperKettle Actually, you're correct. The phrase is survived by (followed by a list of close living relatives) appears in almost every obituary of any length, in American usage. – user6951 Nov 3 '14 at 6:45
  • @CarSmack ..is survived by... is quite a common expression even in InE; but that's not the concern here. – Maulik V Nov 3 '14 at 6:53

It should be 'was married' - I'm not sure of the custom in India, but in my experience, marriage (like most earthly institutions) ends when either party passes away. Indeed, Christian wedding vows make explicit reference to this with the line "Til death do us part".

I suppose his wife could still consider herself married to him, but that would be a personal thing. Once one party to a marriage is dead, so is the marriage.


The common convention is to refer to almost anything about someone who is dead in the past tense. "He was married to ..." "He was a great artist ..." "He had a degree from such-and-such college", etc.

Depending on your religious beliefs, you may believe that his spirit or soul still lives, and thus there might be things you would say about him in the present tense.

For example, I understand that Mormons believe that marriage is eternal, that you will still be married to the same person in Heaven. Thus I would not be surprised if a Mormon said of a dead person, "He IS married to ..."

The only exception to this that I can think of is records. Like we will say, "Fred Smith holds the record for most home runs in a season" even after Mr Smith is dead. But even other things that don't really expire, and that we say in present tense when a person is alive, become past tense when he dies. Like, "Fred Smith IS a graduate of Foobar College" for as long as he lives, but when he dies it becomes "Fred smith WAS a graduate of Foobar College".

  • Just to add a twist to this: many writers will try to avoid this convention by rephrasing the statement. For example, an American obituary would be more likely to say "He married his high school sweetheart," which can be said in past tense because it refers to the wedding, not the marriage. – chapka Nov 3 '14 at 15:15

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