Submitted by joann  •  June 5, 2007

What should “I do”?

I’m getting married and my fiancee (with a Harvard PhD) says that our vows should end as “until death us do part.” My priest (with a PhD equivalent who studied in Rome under the Pope) says that the traditional language is “until death do us part.”

I’m just a Texas Aggie who thinks that perhaps we should use “for as long as we both shall live.”

But just for grins, which of the “until death . . .” phrases is correct? Or are both correct?

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Actually, the original reading is "till death us depart" (with the old meaning of "depart" as "separate"). But I think I've heard both "us do" and "do us" cited as correct, also. (Another alternate reading: "until we are parted by death.")

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I vote on Texas Aggie over Harvard/Roman PhD. Scratch "till death do us part" or whatever, and say "for a really long time, seriously."

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Yeah, I'm from Texas, so I'm going to have to agree with the Aggie statement. Besides, the word 'death' is so negative.

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If part is used as a synonym of depart, then it could be interpreted as "till death make(s*) us depart". The same for "separate".

If "do part" is used as a synonym of "divide", then "us" becomes the object. Latin grammar allows the object before the verb (and the all-mighty rule-makers love applying latin grammar to english), thus "us do part".

Or neither.

*I'm not sure why use make/do instead of makes/does. It seems to sound right, albeit rather archaic, but I have no clue as to why, or when, to use one or the other. Anyone care to provide some enlightenment regarding this?

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"Us" is objective case, indicating that it is the object of the verb "part". If you really want to modernize it, you shoud say "Until death should part us". In the inverted word order of archaic or poetic usage, the object would come after the auxiliary "do" and before the main verb.

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William, why "should"? Why not "does"? Or for that matter, why not just "until death parts us" if you want to modernize it?

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If the Texas common sense doesn't win out and you are reduced to hair-splitting, I suggest legalese!

a.(1) Duration "...until such time that, through no fault of their own, such events should transpire that may render the party(ies) incapacitated and unable to fulfill the aforementioned implied obligations of holy matrimony."

b.(1) Greiving "In the case that these yet unnamed events render the female party incapacitated as mentioned in subpart (a) paragraph (1), then the male party shall remain in a state commonly referred to as "widower" for a period of not less than one year."

(2.) "In the case that these yet unnamed events render the male party incapacitated as mentioned in subpart (a) paragraph (1), then the male party shall remain in a state commonly referred to as "widow" for a period of not less than six months."

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The archaic phrasal verb "to do part" means "to separate".

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