Which tense to use when mentioning someone who is dead, but the institution or country that he founded still exists, as in the sentences below:

  • Atatürk has founded Turkey.

  • Atatürk founded Turkey.


2 Answers 2


I've been taught, that it is correct to use the past simple form in case it may no longer done again.

The author has written 5 books. (about a living person. We indicate he may write more)

The author wrote 5 books. (if the person is no longer alive)

In your example I would say one of the following:

Atatürk founded Turkey.

Turkey has been founded by Atatürk.

  • I assume Turkey is never going to be founded again. So why the present perfect? Apr 29 at 21:53

Never use the present perfect directly to dead people. However, exceptions exist for their possessions, creative works, actions, or consequences, e.g., 'Picasso's painting have been talked about for many years'. But: 'Picasso wasn't happy with some of his work". We can also say: 'Picasso isn't my favourite painter'. But here we mean his work. If we say, 'Picasso wasn't my favourite painter,' it would imply you knew him when he was still alive. But if you use a finished time expression, you could say: 'Picasso wasn't my favourite painter at school (which is a finished time for you).

  • 1
    I'd disagree that 'Picasso wasn't my favourite painter' implies that you knew him when he was still alive. There's no implied relationship other than awareness. Apr 29 at 7:32
  • 1
    Yes, @KT; 'Picasso wasn't my favourite painter' may be followed by 'but my tastes have changed a lot in the last 30 years'. Or it may just be used as an alternative to 'Picasso isn't my favourite painter' (the perfective aspect licensed by Picasso's having died). Apr 29 at 10:36

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