is/was a sister to [deceased person]

preciso

Member
Canada (English)
You have just heard that Ann, your colleague Karen's sister, died last month. Would you say that

Karen is Ann's sister

or, because the relationship has been changed by death, would you say that

Karen was Ann's sister?
 
  • Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    Since Ann is dead, I would say Ann was Karen's sister.

    Since Karen is alive, I would say Karen is Ann's sister.
     

    kap5100

    New Member
    United States, English
    You can say either, both have different implications.

    Technically you would say Karen was Ann's sister.
    Saying Karen is Ann's sister implies that you have not accepted the death, or because the death was so recent, it is more respectful to refer to their relationship in present tense.
     

    Trisia

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    I'm not sure any of them would fit (the first is fine, but it doesn't say anything about Ann).

    I couldn't say "Karen was Ann's sister." For one, she is still alive. And I suppose that, for Karen, Ann will always be her sister. I would easily say "Ann was Karen's sister," because that would be understandable (if not necessarily technically correct).

    "Karen is sister to the late Ann" is somewhat stilted, but at least I would know what I'm talking about.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Since Ann is dead, I would say Ann was Karen's sister.

    Since Karen is alive, I would say Karen is Ann's sister.
    This reflects my usage too. You might use "is" relating to the dead person to be "sensitive" but you would never use "was" in relation to the living person.
     
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