Use of 'ex-' and 'former'


Sorry for the sad question, but I need to know whether it’s correct to use ex- / former (especially the former :slight_smile: ) referring to a person who passed away, long ago?
Or they imply that the person who is talked about is alive?

Hi Tamara

You can use the word late to refer to someone who has died relatively recently.

You might say “the late Ronald Reagan” (He died in 2004).

But I wouldn’t recommend saying “the late Abraham Lincoln” since he died in 1865.

Ex- and former don’t really indicate that the person has died. If you said “the former John Smith”, my first reaction would probably be to assume that he’d changed his name. Trying to use ex- with someone’s name would sound like a joke to me. How would you propose doing it? “The Ex-Abraham Lincoln”? :shock: No, that just sounds like something a comedian might come up with.

How long ago were you thinking of? And in what context? (I assume you don’t need it as a form of address… :lol:)


Sorry, Amy, for my ill-expressed question. :frowning:
Perhaps, it’s too stupid to be understood :slight_smile:

I meant just the opposite. :slight_smile:

Well, if I say ‘John Smith, ex-minister, …bla-bla-bla…’, does that imply that I’m talking about the person who is alive (just stopped to be a minister / a husband / whoever :).
And now ‘his’ place is just taken by someone else. New minister, new husband, etc

Hi Tamara :lol:

Ahhhh, you wanted to talk about titles. :smiley:

Both ex- and former can be used with a person’s previous title when talking about someone living or relatively recently deceased.

If the person died very long ago, I’d say the word former would be better to use. Or you might be better off wording things very differently (i.e., name, then title and when the title was held).


Thanks, Amy, indeed. Brilliant!



John Smith, Jane Brown’s second husband, 1912-13.


Amy, could you please tell me if your don’t is just a typo or is correct in the sentence?

Thanks a lot


Hi Eagle-Eye

Yes, that’s a typo. I guess I must have been debating whether or not to use the word using. :wink: