Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I've found some sentences that seem odd for me such as, "She is married" instead of "She was married" or "This transaction is approved" instead of "This transaction was approved"

I want to know which one is correct? (from those example) and Are there any rules for "is/am/are" and "was/were" in this case?

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

In this case, married and approved are used as an adjective, which is also a subject complement. As such, it gives information about the subject (She, The transaction).

The use of the past tense would imply, for example that "She is not married anymore", and consequently single again.

married and approved is more the status of the subject after the action of marrying and approving, as the description of the action itself. If it is still true, then the present should be used, otherwise, use the past.

share|improve this answer
    
"She was married" doesn't necessarily imply that she is no longer. "Did you hit on that girl?" "No, turns out she was married." –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 20 '10 at 16:28
    
@Mr. Shiny and New: Sure but without context, that would be the interpretation most of the people would do. –  Eldroß Dec 20 '10 at 16:38

In your examples using "to be" means it's something that has happened but is still true, because it's a change of state from one state to another. If you're referring to the transition itself you would use "to be" as long as the state is unchanged.

Examples: "He is married". (The state of being married) "He was married in the late summer 10 years ago". (The celebration of the transition from unmarried to married) "He was married" (More ambiguous, but most likely he's no longer alive, his partner is no longer alive, or he is divorced, etc. Unless you specify a specific time it most likely means the state is no longer true)

share|improve this answer

protected by RegDwigнt May 1 '12 at 8:26

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

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