Ils se sont mariés. Ils sont mariés.
eel suh saw maar-YAY. eel saw maar-YAY. Click below to hear this.*
They got married. They are married.
There’s love in the air!
But what’s the difference between these two very similar sentences?
The first is a reflexive verb. Se marier means to get married. Note that this sentence does not necessarily specify that they married each other; they each went through a wedding ceremony, but this sentence could be about two (or fifty) people (men or women) who married someone. That’s all. Context will have to clarify the rest for you. Maybe it’s one of those mass ceremonies you read about occasionally? Or “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”?
The second sentence is the verb to be with a past participle being used as an adjective. It describes the current civil status of the people in question. Are they married or single? Ils sont mariés. Keep your hands off, girls and boys, they are off-limits.
Remember that ils does not distinguish whether the group consists of all males or some males and some females. Even one man in a group of women is enough to call for the use of the masculine plural pronoun. Sorry, gals, that’s just the way the language works. Make your peace with it.
*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file: