Marital Status and Relationship Vocabulary

What does marital status mean?

When you see marital status on an official form or application, they usually want to know if you are married or single.
However there is a lot more English vocabulary associated with marital status and relationships that we use in everyday life. Let’s look at some of the most common relationship vocabulary used in English.

To be + Single

Single = you don’t have a boyfriend / girlfriend / husband / wife / partner. A person that has no romantic relationship with another person.
Single is used for a boy/man and a girl/woman.

  • I am single.
  • You are single.
  • He is single.
  • She is single.
  • They are single.

Boyfriend or girlfriend?

A boyfriend/girlfriend is a person you have a romantic relationship with. It is not a legal relationship, you are not married.
Boyfriend is used when a person has a romantic relationship with a boy or a man.
Girlfriend is used when a person has a romantic relationship with a girl or a woman.

We use: to have a boyfriend or to have a girlfriend

  • I have a girlfriend.
  • She has a boyfriend.
  • He doesn’t have a girlfriend.

We don’t say: I have a manfriend or a womanfriend. Older people sometimes use the word partner instead.

The next stage after being boyfriend or girlfriend for some time, is to be engaged.

Be + Engaged

To be engaged = you have made a promise/commitment to marry someone.

  • I’m engaged. (I have made a commitment to my partner and we will get married)
  • They are engaged. (Yes, they plan to get married in the future)

Usually one of the two people in the couple proposes to the other person. Traditionally, to propose (verb) is when a person gets down on one knee and says to their partner: Will you marry me?

  • He proposed to me last night and I said yes.
    (We are now engaged)

Sometimes this proposal (noun) happens in a special place or a romantic environment.

Has someone ever proposed to you? How did it happen? Let us know in the comments below.

What is the name of the person you intend to marry?
The person you are engaged to or who you plan to marry is your fiancé (man) / fiancée (woman)
Yes, these two words come from French. Fiancé and Fiancée are pronounced the same.

We say: Have a + fiancé / fiancée

  • I have a fiancée.
    (my partner is a woman and we plan to get married)
  • I have a fiancé.
    (my partner is a man and we plan to get married)

And then…

Be + Married

The next stage of a relationship is being married.
Married means you have a legally or formally recognized union with your husband or wife.

We use: To be + married

  • I am married.
  • We are married.
  • He is married.
  • She’s married.


If you want to specify the person you are married to, we use: married + to + person

  • I am married to Angelica.
  • She is married to Paolo.
  • He is married to a teacher. (It doesn’t always need to be the name of the person)

You don’t say: married with

  • He is married with Veronica. (Not correct)
  • He is married to Veronica. (Correct)


What is the difference between married and marriage?
Married is an adjective.
Marriage is the noun.

  • They have a happy marriage.
  • Their marriage is on the rocks. (This means it is in trouble, like when a ship is on the rocks, there is serious danger of the ship sinking)

What do you think is the secret to a happy marriage? Let us know in the comments section below.


And now that you are married, you have either a husband or a wife.
The man you are married to is your husband.
The woman you are married to is your wife.

  • My wife is from Chile.
  • Her husband is a teacher.

In the wedding ceremony they usually say:
I now pronounce you husband and wife.

Did you know that the plural of wife is wives? Notice the change in spelling between the singular wife and plural wives.

  • King Henry VIII had many wives. (Of course not all at the same time)


Spouse = husband OR wife. You don’t specify if you are married to a man or woman.

  • I went to the concert with my spouse.
    (I don’t mention if I have a husband or a wife, just the fact that I am married and I went to the concert with him or her)

Have a + Partner

  • I have a partner.

I don’t specify if my partner is a man or woman. You could be married or not married.
This is often used because some people don’t like to use boyfriend or girlfriend, maybe because it sounds like something teenagers say. Or maybe it is used because they don’t want to say whether the person they are with is a man or woman.

  • I go to the beach with my partner every weekend.
    (I don’t specify if my partner is a man or woman, if we are married or not.)

The difference between spouse and partner.

Both spouse and partner don’t mention if the person is male or female.

Spouse means you are married.
Partner can mean you could be married or not married, you don’t specify.

The Wedding

The ceremony when you get married is called a wedding. Sometimes a wedding is at a church, sometimes in an office, sometimes at a beach. It depends on the person and their religion.


The people that are getting married at a wedding, during the actual ceremony, are either called a bride or groom.

  • Bride: woman getting married at the wedding.
  • Groom: man getting married at the wedding.


What is the difference between BE married and GET married?
To be married, as in I am married, refers to your current marital status or relationship status. You are married or single.
To get married refers to having a wedding or ceremony to make your union legal or official.

For example:

  • I am married now. That is my marital status, I’m not single.
  • I got married in 2002. Yes, that was the year of my wedding and when I legally become married.

Not married now

As you know, marriage is not always like a walk in the park. No, sometimes it’s like a walk in Jurassic Park so unfortunately, not all marriages last forever.


Divorced = I was married in the past but now I am legally not married.

  • I am divorced.
  • She is recently divorced.

The verbs that can be used are:
To divorce / to get a divorce / to get divorced = to go through the process of legally becoming NOT married anymore.

  • We divorced after so many unsolvable problems.
  • They are getting a divorce.
  • He got divorced last year.


Sometimes a person has not completed the legal process of getting divorced but the couple are not living together now. In this case we use separated.

  • I am separated. (I no longer live with my wife/husband)
  • He’s separated.
  • She is a lot happier now that she is separated.


Sometimes you are married and then your husband or wife dies. When you haven’t married again you are either a widow or a widower.

A woman says: I am a widow. (Typically means: My husband (partner) has died)
A man says: I am a widower. (Typically means: My wife (partner) has died)

So, are you single, engaged, married, separated, divorced, a widow… or all of the above?

Relationships Vocabulary Summary Chart

Coming soon…


Lesson tags: Love, Marital Status, Relationships, Vocabulary
Back to: English Course > Comparing People and Things

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