What is the convention when you want to dedicate a work to someone who is dead? It is necessary to be explicit about that?

For example, I am writing my thesis and would like to dedicate it to my parents. However my father passed away while I was studying. I would like to dedicate it to both him and my mother, any suggestions?

Is it ok to say "to my loving parents" even though one of them is actually not with us anymore?

  • 1
    Hi, and welcome to Writers. Requests to rephrase single sentences are not on-topic for us (as they are unlikely to help others in the future), but they are on-topic at English SE. I will ask the mods to migrate. Feb 27, 2015 at 13:08
  • 2
    I think a question about the proper format and content of a dedication is perfectly on topic and of interest to many writers. Please do not move.
    – user5645
    Feb 27, 2015 at 15:05
  • or you could say: to my loving Mom and Dad (who is sadly no more)
    – ottodidakt
    Feb 27, 2015 at 15:42
  • Hi Lauren.. Thank you.. but it is fine.. I think I got my answer.. But it would be nice if the mods automatically migrated any off-topic questions to the correct place without really putting them on hold.. And this could really help anyone in the future if they need to make a dedication to someone who is not alive anymore :)
    – Aqs
    Feb 28, 2015 at 2:28
  • Why did you close this question? It does not ask what to write or to rephrase but for the conventions in dedications. This qzestion is exactly similar to all the questions asking how to cite or how to headline. Please reopen.
    – user5645
    Feb 28, 2015 at 7:35

2 Answers 2


The phrase "to [name]" is perfectly applicable to persons past, present and future, as it does not contain a finite verb form or any other time reference.

Also, there is no reason why a book could not be dedicated to someone who is no longer alive. Many books that I own are dedicated to persons that were part of the authors life but are no longer with us.

Some authors expand the dedication, explaining the relationship ("to my son Paul"), the reason for the dedication ("for their help with..."), when they lived ("1907-1983") or whatever else the author wants to mention. Some dedications are quite mysterious though ("to D."), and only comprehensible for the person in question.

  • This is what I wanted to know... If "to (name)" can be applied to someone in the past... Thanks :)
    – Aqs
    Feb 28, 2015 at 2:21
  • @Aqs You are welcome. You can accept my answer if it answers your question.
    – user5645
    Feb 28, 2015 at 7:30

I'm sorry to learn of your father's death. To answer your question, I would ask a few questions of my own.

Did your father ever stop loving you before he died?

If he were alive today, would he continue to love you?

Did your father's love for you help you to achieve your educational ambitions?

Has he love for you helped to shape who you are today?

I already know from your question what the answers will be. I think, therefore, that your father has every right to the dedication you want to make to him. He has loved you, sponsored you, worried about you and encouraged you to this point and the only reason he cannot physically show his love for you now is because, sadly, he is no longer alive.

I don't know how old you are but your Dad put x years of love and work into you - and it is your thesis and your way of recognising what both your mother and your father have contributed to make you the scholar you are today.

As for the rest of the world, it is an unfortunate fact of life that no-one else will actually care about the wording of your dedication. However, your thesis is the culmination of your studies, is something intensely personal to you and - I imagine - you will keep a copy of it for many, many years to come.

If you do dedicate your thesis to your loving parents, no-one but you and your mother will care - but it will mean something important for a long time to come.

If you only dedicate your thesis to your living mother, she will be hurt (assuming she loved your father).

If you do not dedicate your thesis to your father and mother together, no-one else will ever care ... but you will and you will live to regret your decision for many years.

Be proud of who you are. Be proud of how your parents have helped you. Dedicate your thesis to your loving parents and you will have something to treasure.

P.S. And write the very best thesis you possibly can! Good luck.

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