Yes, he <is, was> my Father. (Father is deceased)

Dimcl

Senior Member
Canadian English
Here's the scenario:

My father, John Doe, is deceased but I look a lot like him and share his name (John Doe, Jr.). I walk into a cocktail party and introduce myself. Somebody says "You're not related to Mr. John Doe, are you?" Do I say "Yes, he is my father" or "Yes, he was my father" and why?

If I respond "Yes, he is my father" (I do, after all, have a father and always will), I'm implying that he's still my father and is, therefore, alive. If I say "He was my father", I'm implying that he's deceased but am also saying that I no longer have a father which isn't, technically, true.

Any ideas? Thanks.

<<See also:>>
Mrs K <is, was> the deceased's sister. Mrs K is still alive.
 
  • Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    You would say "he was my father." I think native speakers would understand the implication correctly.
    But does that mean that I no longer have a father? I'm thinking more along genetic lines here. Obviously, I no longer have a living, breathing father but to say "He was my father" says that I have no father...
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    But does that mean that I no longer have a father? I'm thinking more along genetic lines here. Obviously, I no longer have a living, breathing father but to say "He was my father" says that I have no father...
    This is custom or convention. Obviously, everyone has a father literally. People will understand "he was my father" as meaning that he is now deceased.

    Other phrases have different meanings:
    "I have no father." - You are disowning your father.
    "I had no father while growing up." - Your father was not present in your life as a child.
     

    tinlizzy

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I get what you're talking about. You no longer have a father and are only left with paternity or paternal heritage.
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I get what you're talking about. You no longer have a father and are only left with paternity or paternal heritage.
    Right. As a student of genealogy, I've never quite reconciled this question. My 4th great-grandparents are all obviously dead but are they or were they my 4th great-grandparents? Biblio would say they were but I'm still hazy (so, what's new?:)).
     

    tinlizzy

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Speaking geneology sentence structure is a little different I guess.

    You could say is or was.

    I could tell my son if explaining our family tree....
    Bob is my dad, Frank is my grandfather, Harold is my great-grandfather, all of whom are dead. Or I could say -was.

    But in the context you provided Biblio is right that you would say "was" if the person is deceased.
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    This scenario you've painted, Dimcl, is unique, in that I feel you let tender feelings guide you in it's delivery.

    bibliolept is technically correct, I think. Yet this instance of word usage is a special circumstance, I believe. The words you choose to answer that question involve much more than just giving an answer. They hold emotions inside them more than most, so I think it's a matter of personal choice which tense you use.

    And, as bibliolept stated, people understand you, no matter which tense you do choose. The choosing of it really is for your benefit, not the other person's. That's what makes this question different from most here on the Forum.

    I can personalize this and give you a totally different answer than one you would give, I suspect.

    I, too, look just like my now-dead father. If I met someone who asked me, "Are you related to Mr. John K. ?" I would answer, "Yes, he was my father." Inside, I would be thinking, "Not that he ever was."

    So the words I used wouldn't bother me in the least, because they carry no heavy, positive emotions with them. I'm sure, though, the other person would understand me just as clearly, though, as they would you, using different tenses in honor of your warm feelings.

    I'd stick with whatever feels good to you in this case. It wouldn't be wrong, in my opinion.

    AngelEyes
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Thanks to everybody for their thoughts. I think you're right, AngelEyes - emotion and connection (or not) probably has a large part to play in choice of words in this instance. I think, however, that since the concensus is "was", that's what I'll go with in the future.
     
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