Can I say "I wish to divorce" or "they wish to divorce by mutual consent" etc? In other words can I use the word "divorce" as an intransitive verb (without an object), or is "get divorced" the correct form to use the word divorce as an intransitive verb? eg: "I wish to get divorced"

  • 1
    You can use 'divorce' intransitively in the way that you suggest. That is formal, whereas 'get divorced' is informal, casual or conversational. Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 7:40
  • this site is really not a dictionary service.... askers of questions are expected to do at least a modicum of research before posting a question... such as a Google search of two words: divorce define... which leads to multiple dictionary results giving your answer... Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 16:47

2 Answers 2


One could certainly say, and people do say, "They divorced", in the same way that people say "They married", which appears to be an intransitive use. But I am inclined to think that "They divorced" is short for "They divorced one another".

However the OED has been prepared to recognise this as an intransitive use. Their sense 1c of the verb, provides these examples:

intransitive (for reflexive) 1643 J. Milton Doctr. Divorce 10 The reasons which now move him to divorce, are equall to the best of those that could first warrant him to marry.

a1649 W. Drummond Hist. James

V in Wks. (1711) 100 King Henry impatient of Delays, and amorous, divorceth from his own Queen, and marrieth Anne Bullen.

1875 E.

Poste tr. Gaius Institutionum Iuris Civilis (ed. 2) i. Comm. 116
Justinian enacted that a man or a woman who divorced without a cause should retire to a cloister.


Here is what the dictionaries list:

7. to get a divorce.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary

To obtain a divorce.
American Heritage Dictionary

[with object]
1.Legally dissolve one's marriage with (someone)
(no object) ‘they divorced eight years later’
Oxford Living Dictionaries

intransitive verb
law : to obtain a divorce
They divorced two years later.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

If a man and woman divorce or if one of them divorces the other, their marriage is legally ended.
My parents divorced when I was very young. [VERB]
Mr Gold is divorcing for the second time. [VERB]
Collins Dictionary

1 [intransitive, transitive]
David’s parents divorced when he was six.
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

NGram Viewer results for "divorced a year later"

Examples on Google Books (just look for "he divorced" or "she divorced" in the search and look for ones that are used intransitively.

  • He divorced, and I stayed married.
  • After he divorced and opened his own company, he found that he had very little time left in his day for anything else.
  • Judy, however, did not live in the same triple-decker as her parents before she divorced.
  • Debby was married without children when she started with the performance team, but eventually she divorced.

The intransitive form seems to be less common than the transitive one with a single person as a subject, and the intransitive form seems more common when referring to "them" (the couple) ("they divorced"). I assume this is because to use it transitively you would say something like "They divorced each other", and we're happy just to use "divorced" intransitively in such a sense.

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