I recently read somewhere that says "Mom has gotten a divorce since 1980". Is it correct to say so, and is "Mom has been divorced since 1980" also correct?

  • 2
    "Has gotten a divorce" implies an event. "Has been divorced" implies a status.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 25, 2020 at 0:53
  • 1
    They don't mean the same thing. The first suggests that "Mom" got a divorce sometime after 1980.
    – user888379
    Mar 25, 2020 at 0:54
  • 2
    They are both correct, and in certain circumstances can mean the same thing; but they are also both ambiguous, and ambiguous in different ways, so in general they don't mean the same things. Mar 25, 2020 at 1:49
  • 1
    @John Lawler That was why Mom and Pop divorced. Apr 24, 2020 at 13:17

2 Answers 2


English verb tenses can often be confusing, but the problem here is phrasal verbs. Both of those sentences use the present perfect tense, which is used to talk about single events that happened at some time in the past or to talk about past events that have continued up to the present. It's the use of the verbal phrases "to get a divorce" and "to be divorced" that really tell us what the writer means. To get a divorce is a one-time event and to be divorced is a change of status that continues to the present. So, "Mom has gotten a divorce since 1980" means that at some point between 1980 and today, Mom got a divorce. You'd use this phrasing if you were talking about what a horrible marriage Mom had in 1980, but don't worry, Mom has gotten a divorce since 1980. "Mom has been divorced since 1980" means that in 1980, the divorce event happened, Mom's marital status changed and has remained this way until now. She is still divorced. Both of those sentences are grammatically correct, but are talking about two different things.

  • Is there a difference between this answer and the earlier one by Mr. Bender?
    – jsw29
    Mar 25, 2020 at 17:38
  • Not really. This one is a little more detailed.
    – Liza
    Mar 26, 2020 at 18:26

"Mom has been divorced since 1980" means that she divorced her spouse in 1980 and is still divorced.

"Mom has gotten a divorce since 1980" could mean she got a divorce at some point between 1980 and the present, but that's an awkward way to write it.

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