WAS he buried? Or IS he buried?

+12 votes
I've been seeing edits where someone changes "he was buried..." to "he is buried"...

How decide which tense to use?
in Policy and Style by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (821k points)
Wow!  This sounds very nitpicky to me.  Either, IMHO, is correct.  He was buried and he is buried.  He was buried in the cemetery, and he's still there.  I don't think of him as 'he is buried' in the cemetery, but rather that he was buried and is interred in the cemetery.  I can only wish that I had nothing better to think of than this...  But it gave me a good chuckle!
First guy: I'm a wigwam. I'm a teepee. I'm a wigwam. I'm a teepee.

Second guy: Calm down man, you're too tents.



ROTFL, Betty!
I started to say "Really?  Somebody takes the time to do that?"  And then I remembered recently seeing where a member was changing County to Co.   

I guess we all have our little things that make us twitch.  :-)
Count to Co. is actually contrary to the style guidelines here. ;-)
I know -- an extra helping of "why on earth would you bother?"

8 Answers

+5 votes
That's a good question; I've wondered about it myself. If you think about it carefully, he was buried in 1845. He is still buried in Something Cemetery, Somewhere. So if we are talking about the burial place, I think "he is buried" is correct.
by Shirley Dalton G2G6 Pilot (503k points)
+7 votes
Personally, I use whatever fits in the context.  I would say "He died on 1 Jan 1900 and was buried at the Union Cemetery on 4 Jan...."  But, if I have a separate paragraph for burial, it might say something like "and he is buried in the family plot at Union Cemetery."

There is a problem with those who WERE buried in a particular place but are no longer buried there. Perhaps there was a disinterment and the body was moved to another cemetery, or, as often happened in Europe, he was buried, but the body was dug up and the grave was recycled, with his bones being placed in a charnel house.  I think that has to be explained in the Bio.
by Vic Watt G2G6 Pilot (336k points)
Or like in the city of Detroit Michigan where the bodies were dug up and reburied several times because the cemetery was moved further out as the city expanded!
+8 votes
I would think it would depend:

When was he buried? He was buried on 10 November 1660.

Where was he buried? He was buried in xyz cemetery.

Where is he buried? He is buried in xyz cemetery.
by Jeanie Roberts G2G6 Pilot (129k points)
+4 votes
Was would refer to time. He was buried Oct 12.

He is buried would refer to the physical location. He is buried at (cemetery) unless he was dug up and reburied somewhere else, then he was/is. :)
by Jim Tareco G2G6 Mach 3 (31.2k points)
+2 votes

I've used both, generally depending on the source of the information.

  • If I have an old record that describes the place of interment, but I don't have modern evidence that his remains are still in the cemetery, I'll say that he "was" buried.
  • If the information source is a record indicating that the remains are currently in a particular cemetery, I'll probably say "is buried," to allow for the possibility that he was originally buried somewhere else.
  • If the only source regarding his burial is a memorial stone and I have any reason to wonder if he was really buried there (for example, death in Arkansas in 1890 and memorial stone in a family graveyard in Massachusetts), I might hedge my bets and describe the memorial stone without expressly saying it marks his grave.

And if I'm pretty sure he still is buried where he was buried originally, I'll use either one....

by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
+5 votes
In Germany you lease your grave site, the time period varies from location to location. And when the time for the original lease is up and the descendants don't want to shell out the money for an extension the grave gets recycled ...

There I'd definitely use "was" unless I have proof it's the grave of a historically important person that still exists.
by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (553k points)
+1 vote
Your relative was interred (the act of burying) at Green-wood, where he is now buried in the ground.
by Living Straehle G2G6 Mach 1 (14.9k points)
+2 votes
Under the category "More than you need/want to know"...

'to bury' is a verb that takes an object ("My dog will bury the bone."); 'buried' can be the past tense of that verb ("We buried my uncle yesterday.").

'buried' can also be used as an adjective describing placement/ posiiton ("I'm buried with debris!")

'burial' is a noun ("Harold attended burials -- he enjoyed watching the act of putting someone in the ground.").  Synonym: interment.

'burial' can also be used as an adjective ("Here is her burial site -- the place we interred her, where we put her in the ground.").


bury as VERB: We buried her in Forest Lawn.

bury as ADJECTIVE: She lies buried [in the ground, beneath the grass] at Forest Lawn.

burial as NOUN: I attended her funeral ceremony, then stayed to watch her burial (interment) by the cemetery's laborers.

burial as ADJECTIVE: Forest Lawn is her burial place.


(Yes, I revere Theodore M Bernstein.)
by Living Straehle G2G6 Mach 1 (14.9k points)

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