2 added 778 characters in body
source | link

"First wife" is mostly used if there is a second (or further) wife. An exception would be if there is a question about wifes, like "Has he been married before?" "No, Jane is his first wife". There is no indication whether that wife is alive or dead.

"Former wife" is used for a person who was once the wife and isn't knownow. It is usually not used for a person who died while being the wife. So the "former wife" would be a divorced wife, with no indication whether that former wife is alive or dead.

So if Joe marries Jane, she dies, and he marries Joanne, then you would call Jane his first wife, but probably not a former wife. If Joe and Jane divorced then Jane would be both the "former" and "first" wife. Before Joe married Joanne, Jane would likely not have been called his "first" wife. Joanne may at some point become a "former" wife, but she can never be the "first" wife.

If you met Joe and Jane together, and Joe said "this is my first wife, Jane" then you could reasonably assume that they are divorced and Joe married again. If Joe said "this is my former wife, Jane" then you could reasonably assume that they are divorced, but you couldn't assume anything about Joe being married again. And of course people use language in an imprecise way all the time.

"First wife" is mostly used if there is a second (or further) wife. An exception would be if there is a question about wifes, like "Has he been married before?" "No, Jane is his first wife". There is no indication whether that wife is alive or dead.

"Former wife" is used for a person who was once the wife and isn't know. It is usually not used for a person who died while being the wife. So the "former wife" would be a divorced wife, with no indication whether that former wife is alive or dead.

"First wife" is mostly used if there is a second (or further) wife. An exception would be if there is a question about wifes, like "Has he been married before?" "No, Jane is his first wife". There is no indication whether that wife is alive or dead.

"Former wife" is used for a person who was once the wife and isn't now. It is usually not used for a person who died while being the wife. So the "former wife" would be a divorced wife, with no indication whether that former wife is alive or dead.

So if Joe marries Jane, she dies, and he marries Joanne, then you would call Jane his first wife, but probably not a former wife. If Joe and Jane divorced then Jane would be both the "former" and "first" wife. Before Joe married Joanne, Jane would likely not have been called his "first" wife. Joanne may at some point become a "former" wife, but she can never be the "first" wife.

If you met Joe and Jane together, and Joe said "this is my first wife, Jane" then you could reasonably assume that they are divorced and Joe married again. If Joe said "this is my former wife, Jane" then you could reasonably assume that they are divorced, but you couldn't assume anything about Joe being married again. And of course people use language in an imprecise way all the time.

1
source | link

"First wife" is mostly used if there is a second (or further) wife. An exception would be if there is a question about wifes, like "Has he been married before?" "No, Jane is his first wife". There is no indication whether that wife is alive or dead.

"Former wife" is used for a person who was once the wife and isn't know. It is usually not used for a person who died while being the wife. So the "former wife" would be a divorced wife, with no indication whether that former wife is alive or dead.