'He Is Risen' or 'He Has Risen': Which is Correct?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on November 7, 2022

The sentence "He is risen" seems grammatically incorrect, yet it is often used. Is it correct to say it, or should you use "He has risen"?

Read this article to find out which of the two is correct and why you'll often see "he is risen."

The short answer is:

  • "He is risen" is old-fashioned English and wouldn't be used today, but in the context of the Bible, it's okay to use it.

What Is The Meaning & Origin Of "He Is Risen"?

"He is risen" is an extract from the Bible and refers to Jesus's resurrection. Theologians believe that he was brought back to life by God.

The verb' rise' means to stand up, go up, or generally move from a lower position to a higher one. 'Rise' is often used to talk about people returning to life. You might hear it in zombie or vampire movies, for example:

"He has risen from the dead."

But as you can see, in the example above, I used "has risen," not "is risen." Why is that? Read on to find out.

Is "He Is Risen" Grammatically Correct?

'Rise' is an intransitive verb, which means it doesn't do something to something else. You don't rise something; you just rise. 'Give' is an example of a transitive verb. You give something.

Why am I telling you this? Because in the past, intransitive verbs formed their present perfect with the correct form of 'to be' + past participle. Here are some examples:

The battle is over; we are fallen.

Get me food, for I am hungered!

They are come so you can tell them everything.

So yes, "He is risen" is archaic English, meaning it's old English that doesn't get used anymore. The only reason you would need to use archaic English would be to infuse an old-fashioned feel to a story you are writing, or to quote an old text, like the Bible.

Note: There is one exception - a case where 'to be' + participle can be used with an intransitive verb. That's with the verb 'go.' You can say, "She is gone."

Using 'Is' + Past Participle for More Permanence

As we've established, 'is' + past participle is no longer used with intransitive verbs. But it is used with transitive verbs, and when it is, it transmits a more permanent feel. When you say something is done, it implies that it will stay that way.

Take the following example:

She has changed the tires.
The tires are changed.

The first sentence describes an action, something that has happened. The second sentence describes a more permanent state of things.

It's a subtle difference, but the difference is there.

Hypothetically this is why the translation "he is risen" was chosen over "he has risen" and why we have stuck with it - because "he is risen" has more permanence, and people in the faith believe that Jesus will stay risen forever. Yes, he rose many years ago, and he remains risen now.

Some Final Thoughts on 'He Is Risen'

As we've established, 'he is risen' is an old-fashioned and outdated way to speak. But you're unlikely to say this sentence in any context other than quoting the Bible, or if you know somebody who has returned from the dead, you don't need to worry about it.

If you're watching a fiction movie or writing a story and want to describe a scene where somebody comes back to life after passing, you should say, "he has risen," "she has risen," or "they have risen."

If you found this article helpful, check out our Confusing Words section to learn even more correct ways of saying or spelling confusing words and sayings.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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