single/unmarried (+ widowed/divorced)

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meijin

Senior Member
Japanese
Hi, if a survey question asked "What is your marital status?" and there were only two response options "Married" and "Unmarried" or "Single", would people who are widowed or divorced naturally choose the second option without feeling weird? In other words, should the second option be "Unmarried/widowed/divorced" or "Single/widowed/divorced"? Or would adding these offend those who are widowed/divorced?
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Hi, if a survey question asked "What is your marital status?"
    I would not cooperate any further with the survey. I cannot see what marital status has to do with any questions you might ask me. The survey is becoming too personal.
    Don't forget 'separated'.
    ... and "civil partnership" and "polygamous" and "in a relationship without the benefit of clergy - livin' ov'r t' brush."
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Don't forget 'separated'.
    I actually thought about including it but didn't without thinking much. You're right, those who are separated wouldn't know which option to choose if there were only those two options. But aren't those who are widowed or divorced "unmarried" or "single"? Would adding "widowed/divorced" really be necessary?

    I cannot see what marital status has to do with any questions you might ask me.
    I think there are products that are only suitable for married couples. The questionnaire would want to screen out those who are single.

    ... and "civil partnership" and "polygamous".
    I'll look up these later.



     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I think there are products that are only suitable for married couples.
    Really? What might they be?
    If I have lived with my girlfriend for 15 years, this product will not suit us, but if I was married yesterday, then it is suitable? What could it be?
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Hi, if a survey question asked "What is your marital status?" and there were only two response options "Married" and "Unmarried" or "Single", would people who are widowed or divorced naturally choose the second option without feeling weird? In other words, should the second option be "Unmarried/widowed/divorced" or "Single/widowed/divorced"? Or would adding these offend those who are widowed/divorced?
    People who were married in the past, but are not married right now, are "unmarried". Why would I feel "weird" about that?

    It's the opposite. Checking a box that says "divorced" instead of "unmarried" feels weird. Instead of just asking your current marital status (which is "not married") it is also asking about your past history, which seems unreasonably personal.

    Questionnaires in the US often list single, married, divorced, but those are official questionaires (doctor's office, driver's license). I do not know if marketing surveys list all three. For marketing surveys, married/unmarried might be acceptable. After all, there is no penalty for "making answers up" in a marketing survey. If you fall into one of the "sort of married" categories mentioned in posts above, you can simply pick "married" or "unmarried" to check. And of course you can also choose to not answer that question, if you feel that marital status is "none of your business".

    Adding a category for "widowed" is just tacky -- do you often remind strangers that a person they loved died? I don't.:)
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    For me "current marital status" can only be "married" or "single". If you are divorced or widowed you are still "single" as "current marital status".
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    People who were married in the past, but are not married right now, are "unmarried".
    Is that the usual definition of "unmarried"? I had of course checked dictionaries before posting and they simply said "unmarried" means "not married". Merriam-Webster says "a : not now or previously married" or "b : being divorced or widowed".

    Instead of just asking your current marital status (which is "not married") it is also asking about your past history, which seems unreasonably personal.
    do you often remind strangers that a person they loved died? I don't.:)
    That's what I mean, and that's why I think only "Married" and "Single" (or "Unmarried" or "Not married") would be enough.

    If you are divorced or widowed you are still "single" as "current marital status".
    That's really good to know. The dictionaries I checked didn't clearly say that point.



     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Is that the usual definition of "unmarried"? I had of course checked dictionaries before posting and they simply said "unmarried" means "not married". Merriam-Webster says "a : not now or previously married" or "b : being divorced or widowed".



    That's what I mean, and that's why I think only "Married" and "Single" (or "Unmarried" or "Not married") would be enough.


    That's really good to know. The dictionaries I checked didn't clearly say that point.



    Marriage is an either/or proposition. Either you are married or you are not married. If you were sworn in, in a court of law and if you were asked, "Are you currently married?" You would have to answer "yes" or "no". There is no middle ground.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    There is no middle ground.
    What I was not sure is whether "single" or "unmarried" only applies to people who have never married. Maybe I misunderstood dojibear's first comment. If I understand the dictionary definitions correctly, "single" and "unmarried" mean the same thing and apply to not just those who have never married but also those who are divorced and widowed (but not those who are separated).
     

    jokaec

    Senior Member
    Chinese - Hong Kong
    Person A: May I introduce a boyfriend to you?
    Person B: I'm unmarried but not single. I already have a boyfriend.

    Does it make sure to use "unmarried" to mean a person not married but might has a boyfriend or girlfriend?
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Unmarried and single mean the same thing, i.e. no spouse, regardless of whether there's a "significant other" in the mix.
    Neither of your sentences is idiomatic and B: is just plain wrong. (See post #9)

    WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2019
    sin•gle /ˈsɪŋgəl/ adj., v., -gled, -gling, n.
    adj.
    1. only one in number;
      one only;
      unique:[before a noun]a single example.
    2. of, relating to, or suitable for one person only:[before a noun]a single room.
    3. the only;
      lone:[before a noun]He was the single survivor.
    4. unmarried: a single man.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Intriguing thread!

    Looking at the original question, I would have enormous difficulty with a questionnaire which gave me only the options "married" and "unmarried"/"single". My husband died ten years ago: I'm neither "unmarried" nor "single" - I'm "widowed" or "a widow".

    As regards jokaec's question in post 13, "I'm unmarried but not single" works for me.:tick:
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Interesting. So something like this wouldn't work for you? 'My wife died last year, and now I'm single again.' Forms are strange things. Sometimes there are just two options.
    1570153531191.png


    And sometimes there are more, and what 'single' means is determined by what the other options are.
    1570153591943.png

    1570153617588.png
     
    Last edited:

    tunaafi

    Senior Member
    English - British (Southern England)
    My wife and I are examples of the pointlessness of questions about marital status. When we separated and went to live in separate flats, we were, and remain, still legally married, though to all intents and purposes each of us was initially living exactly the same life as if we had divorced, never married or had been widowed. For reasons that have nothing to do with anyone but ourselves, we are now living in one apartment on the same basis as two single people who rent one flat. Like some other people who share a flat, we sometimes go on holiday together.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    I often see 'never married', now that several of you have mentioned it.

    Unfortunately, these two I see less and less frequently, hardly ever, if I must be honest. :D

    _40796038_certificate203.gif
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    But this is still what you see on marriage certificates.
    View attachment 34116
    I would use "condition" refer to a person's health. Maybe it is the same thing. :)

    How would you interpret this phrase? The addition of "current" throws a wrench in the works.

    My current marital status is "single" and I have no dependents.

    1. I was married and am either divorced or widowed and I have no children.
    2. I was married and am either divorced or widowed and I have children above the age of 18 and no longer are dependents.
    3. I never married and I have no children of any age.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    Person A: May I introduce a boyfriend to you?
    Person B: I'm unmarried but not single. I already have a boyfriend.

    Does it make sure to use "unmarried" to mean a person not married but might has a boyfriend or girlfriend?
    This conversation would not take place among any two people I know.
    I cannot imagine someone saying "May I introduce a boyfriend to you?"
    Some busybody might say "May I introduce Bob to you? I think he would be a very nice boyfriend for you."
    In this conversation, person B would simply (and firmly) say "Thank you but I have a boyfriend.'
    The question isn't about the person's marital status but about their interest in meeting someone who could be a boyfriend.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Person A: May I introduce a boyfriend to you?
    A person is not a "boyfriend" when first introduced. A man is not a "boyfriend" until the man and women are "in a relationship", and they stop dating other people because of that.

    But it is common to introduce someone, who you might "date" and who might become a "boyfriend".

    Person B: I'm unmarried but not single. I already have a boyfriend.

    Does it make sure to use "unmarried" to mean a person not married but might has a boyfriend or girlfriend?
    "Umarried" means "not married". "Single" means "not married". A person with a boyfriend is "single".

    Person B might not be "available for dating". B won't date new people, because B "has a boyfriend" or "is in a relationship" or simply "does not want to date anyone".
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    ... if a survey question asked "What is your marital status?" and there were only two response options "Married" and "Unmarried" or "Single", would people who are widowed or divorced naturally choose the second option without feeling weird? In other words, should the second option be "Unmarried/widowed/divorced" or "Single/widowed/divorced"? Or would adding these offend those who are widowed/divorced?
    Is this questionnaire being devised for a specific purpose and is it directed at a audience?
    I have never seen a questionnaire with only those two options. I would deeply resent being expected to chose between 'married' and 'single' if neither of those reflected my relationship status. "eird" would not be right word - that would be "furious",except I wouldn't bother to answer it.
    We do not know the purpose of this questionnaire. That is very important indeed. No serious/official/busines UK questionnaire would limit the status options to those two.

    We have, from the 2011 UK census, options like " married/separated but still legally married/divorced/widowed/in a registered same-sex civil partnership/ separated but still in a same-sex civil partnership/ formerly in same -sex civil partnership now legally dissolved/surviving partner from a same sex civil partnership".

    I thought you might like to know. :D
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    As others have posted, we don't know what this questionnaire is for and might not want to answer it. However, those are not language issues even if it is fun to discuss them.

    The language issue is simple. It is as Packard posted in post #11 above: either one is married or one is not. After a divorce, one is not married. After one's spouse passes away, one is not married. This has nothing to do with how serious a relationship one is in, how committed one is in to the other person in it, or how deep one's feelings still are toward one's late spouse. If a person is not married, then that person is not married.

    Many questionnaires have two or more "not married" categories to suit their purpose. That is, however, not necessary. Without knowing the purpose of this one, we cannot say if it would be a good idea here.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    A person with a boyfriend is "single".
    Is a person who lives with that boyfriend "single"? I'd say not....
    Hermie's right: we're now usually given a lot more than two options. That reflects the fact that society doesn't divide the world into two categories any longer.
    After one's spouse passes away, one is not married.
    Sure. But one isn't single either. At least, this one isn't;).
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    Person A: May I introduce a boyfriend to you?
    Person B: I'm unmarried but not single. I already have a boyfriend.

    Does it make sure to use "unmarried" to mean a person not married but might has a boyfriend or girlfriend?
    People who've posted comments in the last day or so think you're asking about a questionnaire. Your question, though, seems to be about 'unmarried' in an ordinary conversation. Perhaps you should explain or start a new thread.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    ... Sure. But one isn't single either. At least, this one isn't;).
    Part of the problem we're running into is the difference between "single" as a legal status and "single" as a state of mind. One can have neither, both, or either without the other. Advising someone on correct usage requires more context than we have.
     
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