I was strolling on the Wikipedia page and saw phrases like

She is a two-time Academy Award nominee. Source


He was the champion of 2015 competition.

I would like to know which one is correct? and why? Sometimes, I am confused with when to use is and when to use was.


The difference here is whether the honor is transient or lasting. Discerning which is which is a fuzzy area and beyond the scope of this question. But:

For transient honors, such as sports championships, you are the champion until you are defeated. And then the honor moves into the past tense.

For lasting honors, such as the achievement of a rank, you make the present/past distinction not with the verb, but by modifying the noun. E.G. Current:

This year's best actor nominee [name here]...

vs former:

Seven-time Academy Award nominee [name here]...

Also, current:

United Nations Ambassador [name here]...

vs former

Former ambassador [name here]...


You can use either and the meaning will be the same. The thing is, both tenses are valid. For the first, we're referring to a body of work, and thus, the accomplishments are permanent, and considered present tense. e.g. Michael Jordan is a 6 time NBA Finals MVP. You could also say he was a 6 time Finals MVP.

The player won the 2015 competition in the past (so was is appropriate), and is a two time champion/reigning champion. It all depends on your context.

  • And whether the subject is alive or dead. And if it can occur again or not. – miltonaut Jun 13 '16 at 13:12
  • This is a good point of clarification that I missed, but I don't know if it paints the whole picture. For example: "Muhammad Ali has a boxing record of 56 wins with 5 losses." Ali is dead, and he won't box again, but it's still his existing body of work. – Rome_Leader Jun 13 '16 at 13:21
  • As you said, it depends on context. But I would use 'had' instead of 'has' in your Ali example since he cannot change his record now that he has passed. Pretty much the only time I would use the present form of a verb with a dead subject would in a narrative. – miltonaut Jun 13 '16 at 13:34

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