I am confuse on following sentence. which one is correct and why?

My parents are retired or My parents were retired

would appreciate if someone help me to clear this confusion.


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"Retire" in England is a verb with two meanings. One is to say "to stop working", while another is to say, "to decomission or make obsolete".

If you were to say, "My parents were retired," I'd need to know the context of the statement to understand what you mean. It could invoke the first meaning from above, as in, "My parents were retired [at the time]," or it could be the second meaning, as in, "My parents [were assassinated]." I'm going to guess you're looking for the first meaning here, so I want to be clear that "were retired" communicates the status of being retired at the time implied by the context.

"My parents retired," however, is a simple past tense of the first meaning. It signifies the action of retiring, at some time in the past.

So your answer depends on whether you want to signify the status of being retired or the act of retiring, performed at some point in the past.

  • 1
    Good point. Particularly in older writing, "retired" might mean "had gone to bed", vs having left the work force. – Hot Licks Jan 21 at 3:20

My parents are[present tense] retired. My parents are still(present tense) in retirement.

My parents were[past tense] retired.

It's assumed that if something is stated as being in the past tense, that it would not be true to state it in the present tense. (If I say "I used to drive to work" it implies that I do not drive to work in the present tense, but rather use another means of transportation.)

In general use the former is correct without any further qualification. This may change if the state changes:

'We were retired, but Bill came out of retirement to take up the slack when the board removed the sitting Chief Executive.'

This is pretty much the only kind of case where the past tense[were/was] would be appropriate.

https://ell.stackexchange.com/ I include the link because I'm not sure how anal englishdot mods are, the existence of an ell seems to imply very.

  • Close. Saying "my parents were retired" in some sort of chronology would simply imply that they were retired at that time in the chronology, but they might presently still be retired, have left retirement to rejoin the workforce, or be dead. Nothing is implied about present conditions. – Hot Licks Jan 21 at 3:19
  • In 'some sort of chronology' the use would be 'My parents retired' as a verb I think. – Giu Piete Jan 21 at 3:21
  • Many different constructions might be used. "In 1943 there was a war on, I was in the Navy, and my parents were retired.' – Hot Licks Jan 21 at 3:23
  • If they're dead. If they're still alive I'd propose 'already' would be more proper. Still, you do have a point I think. And another on R Mac's comments seems to indicate you'd write a better answer yourself. Don't mean that to be snarky, I don't know how verbose or concise to be with answering questions on se tbh. – Giu Piete Jan 21 at 3:27
  • "... It was, to say the least, a strange time for my parents to adopt the infant who was to become my baby brother." – Hot Licks Jan 21 at 3:39

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