He is survived by two sons

Discussion in 'English Only' started by kclub, Jan 7, 2014.

  1. kclub Member

    Chinese
    << --- What does "He is survived by two sons" mean? --- >>

    I saw this sentence, he is survived by two sons, on news paper. Does it mean that the man died, and his two sons are still alive? If so why is it not in past tense since he already died?
    This sentence is kind of confusing to me, because I thought the word survive means to live through, but apparently this man died. Why is the word survive used in this sentence?

    Thanks for the clarifications!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 7, 2014
  2. Beryl from Northallerton Senior Member

    British English
    >> Does it mean that the man died, and his two sons are still alive?

    Yes, it does. Where did you find your sentence. (We like to know the source)

    >> If so why is it not in past tense since he already died?

    See here: survive: definition of survive in Oxford dictionary (British & World English):
    [with object] remain alive after the death of (a particular person):he was survived by his wife and six children
     
  3. Parla Member Emeritus

    New York City
    English - US
    Welcome to the forum. :)

    The word "survive" is used two ways.

    The meaning in the active voice is to remain alive or to remain alive through something. Examples: The small plane crash-landed on the road, but the three people who were on board survived. They all survived the landing. (That really happened here last week.) She survived the automobile accident.

    The meaning in the passive voice is to be outlived by, to leave behind, normally specifying family members. Example, the one you quote: He is survived by his two sons. The present tense is used because the sons are still alive; they survive him now. But we say that when US President John Kennedy was shot and killed in 1963, he was survived by his wife, Jacqueline. She is no longer alive.
     
  4. kclub Member

    Chinese
    Here is the news that I saw: http://rthk.hk/rthk/news/englishnews/20140107/news_20140107_56_975613.htm
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Thanks for the great explanation, Parla! It totally cleared all my questions!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 9, 2014
  5. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    This thread is inconclusive as to whether to use "is" or "was" when the "two sons" are still alive.
    So let me revive this thread and ask this specific question.

    Can you use either "is" or "was" in the OP when the "two sons" are still alive?
     
  6. ain'ttranslationfun? Senior Member

    US English
    I'd go with "is" in this scenario.
     
  7. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    Is this by any chance a BrE/AmE thing?
     
  8. ain'ttranslationfun? Senior Member

    US English
    Jung, I (USA) don't think so. Note that if the man's sons were alive when this was said/written, only "is" would be possible.
     
  9. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    I agree with ATF?. Perhaps it will help if you remember that survived here refers to the sons. They were still alive when this obituary was written, so the only correct choice for the writer of the obituary was is. Which tense to use becomes a question as the years pass and it becomes increasingly likely that the sons aren't alive any more either, but at the time an obituary is written, is is the only possible choice.
     
  10. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    Fred died last week. He is survived by 2 sons. We are discussing the present. The sons are alive.
    Fred died in 1754. He was survived by 2 sons. We are discussing the past.
    Fred died 4 weeks ago. He was survived by 2 sons. Sadly, the older son died last week. We are discussing the past.

    It's not an AE/BE difference.
     
  11. Parla Member Emeritus

    New York City
    English - US
    That was explained in post #4.
     
  12. Glenfarclas Senior Member

    Chicago
    English (American)
    We normally use "is" if we are talking about the death as an event in the approximate present -- probably 95% of instances of this usage are in obituaries, death notices, and the like -- and "was" if the death is just an event of past history. I think for a sentence that stared, "He died 15 years ago, and..." you could use either "is" (provided the sons are still alive) or "was," and nobody would care.
     

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