1 Was Helen your auntie, a blood relative?

2 Is Helen your auntie, a blood relative?

Helen passed away. Is 2 correct because although Helen passed away, it refers to the relationship which is a fact?

Last edited by terry
Original Post

Hi, Terry, 

terry posted:

1 Was Helen your auntie, a blood relative?

2 Is Helen your auntie, a blood relative?

Helen passed away. Is 2 correct because although Helen passed away, it refers to the relationship which is a fact?

I think both can be used depending on the context and the situation. If the speaker and the addressee know that Helen died, I think the natural answer will be (1). However, (2) could work in some situations, too. For example, see this dialogue: 

Detective: Do you know someone called 'Helen'?

Relative: Yes, of course. 

Detective: Is she your auntie, a blood relative? 

Relative: Yes, she is. Is there anything wrong? 

Detective: I am afraid she passed away yesterday.

 

 

Last edited by ahmed_btm

I would take a guess and say 1. Reason is because 2. also refers to the fact that Helen was your auntie and therefore 'was' may be more appropriate.

Thank you both for your responses.  The situation is that the speaker and the addressee both know that Helen passed away.  I was comparing to the case: Richard is an ex-colleague.  Maybe it is different because the word “ex-colleague” itself bears the meaning which reflects the relationship in the past. But we still use present tense.

David: Richard was a teacher of King’s College.

David: Richard is an ex-colleague of mine.

Both David and Richard are live and kicking. Richard is no longer teaching at King’s College.

 

Last edited by terry

"Maybe it is different because the word “ex-colleague” itself bears the meaning which reflects the relationship in the past"

My thoughts also, since 'was' and 'ex' in the same sentence is similar to a double negative.

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