Divorced, Dead or Different?

Today during introductions, someone mentioned that they had just gotten married and that started a discussion about the difference between the words geheiratet and verheiratet. Both of these are past participles, from heiraten and verheiraten respectively, however verheiratet can also be used as an adjective and it is out of this difference that our discussion arose. Thus, one can say Ich bin verheiratet – I am married – but if you are trying to describe the event, say because it just happened as in this woman’s case, you need to say Ich habe am neunzehnte Januar geheiratet – “I got married on 19 January” – and not Ich war am neunzehnte Januar verheiratet, as the latter implies that between then and now you ceased to be married – “I was married on 19 January (but now I am not).” An extra added twist is that the non-reflexive verb verheiraten means “to marry someone off;” if you want to talk about your own marriage, you need to use the reflexive form sich (mit jemandem) verheiraten Ich habe mich am 19 Januar verheiratet. (Note that sich verheiraten and verheiraten [and heiraten] both take haben in the past tense, therefore you have another clue to use when trying to decide whether verheiratet is being used as an adjective or a past participle.)

If this wasn’t enough confusion, what popped into my head was how different the relationship was between geschieden and verschieden: Ich bin geschieden – “I am divorced” – and Ich bin verschieden – “I am different.” Although verschieden is the past participle of verscheiden, it is very unlikely to be interpreted in this way as verscheiden is a polite or euphemistic form of the verb “to die.”

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