Terry's TMG Tips

Sentence Variables for People

This page created 17 Apr 2014

Version note: Applies to TMG 8 & 9

My article on Modifying Tag Sentence Structures provides an overview of writing and modifying the Sentence Structures in Tags in order to control the output of Tag in narrative reports. This article addresses a specific part of that process – using the Sentence Variables that refer to people.

Tags in TMG have one or two people entered as Principals, and any number may be entered as Witnesses. Each of those people has an associated Sentence Structure, which controls how information from the Tag appears when a narrative report is created for that person. That person can be said to be the "subject" of that Sentence. The Sentence may direct that information from the Date, Place, and/or Memo fields of the Tag be included in the narrative. It may also output the name or other information about the subject. When there are other people entered in the Tag their names or other information may also output. Information about both the subject and other people are produced by Sentence Variables for people; the topic of this article.

Topics Included in this Article
Categories of “People” Variables
Three ways to identify the person involved
Types of Output
Producing names, pronouns, age, and other information
“Position” Variables
Variables that identify people by their position in the Tag
“Role” Variables
Variables that identify people by the Roles assigned to them
“Subject” Variables
Variables that refer to the person who is the subject of the Sentence

Categories of “People” Variables

Sentence Variables for people may usefully be thought of being in three categories, depending on how the Variable identifies the person whose name or other information is to be output.

The sections below provide more on each group, but first we address some general comments about the types of information about a person that these Variables may produce.

Types of Output

Sentence Variables for people can produce several different kinds of output, including the full or various parts of the person's name, a pronoun referring to the person, or other information about the person. Some can produce names or other information about about a group of people who are entered in the Tag. Variables in each of the three groups can produce these types of output, though some have many types available while others have very few. The types of output are listed below:

A full list of the available Variables can be found on my TMG Sentence Variables page.

In the discussion above we described how to specify which parts of a person's name is to be output and in what form, but have not mentioned which name is to be used. Event Tags, whose Sentences we are discussing, do not themselves contain a person's name. In TMG names are entered in Name Tags, and each person can have any number of them. There can be Name Tags for birth names, baptismal names, nicknames, married names, changed names, and many more. One of those is marked as Primary, and appears at the top of the Details Screen. By default, Name Variables used in Event Tags will output the name from the person's Primary Name Tag. However if a person has other Name Tags you can specify that the name entered in one of them be output instead. Details are described in my article on Using Name Variations

“Position” Variables

The "position" variables identify the person whose name is to be output by where they are entered in the Tag. That is, they refer to a Principal or to a Witness. These are the original group of variables in TMG, and are the ones used in the default Sentences provided with the program. They may refer to either the subject of the Sentence, or to another person, as described below:

The four sets of Variables referring to Principals have variations for many of the types output listed in the previous section. The two Variables for Witnesses do not have these variations, though the [W+] Variable is available to suppress substitution of the pronoun "He" or "She."

“Role” Variables

Each person in a Tag is assigned a Role. By default, all Principals are assigned the Role of "Principal" and all Witnesses are assigned the Role of "Witness." Many Tag Types have other Roles available by default. For example, Marriage Tags have Roles of "Bride," Groom," "Minister" and others. Users can also create any number of custom Roles for each Tag Type.

The Role Variables are designed to allow a person or group of people to be referred to by the Role assigned to them. Role Variables can be used for the subject of the Sentence, but I recommend they be used only when referring to other people in the Tag. The major reason is that when more than one person is assigned a given Role, the Role Variables will produce a list of all the people assigned that Role (in TMG 9.01 and prior, there were exceptions for certain Role Variables when used to refer to the subject of the Sentence). The use of a Role Variable to refer to the subject would be appropriate of course if you actually intend that the name of the subject be listed along with the names of others with the same Role, but that's not generally one's intent.

My Using Roles group of articles, including a Roles Tutorial, describe how to use Roles and Role Variables in detail.

“Subject” Variables

Subject Variables (TMG 9 and later) always refer to the subject of this Sentence, that is the person whose narrative will be created by this Sentence. It does not matter whether this person is entered as a Principal or as a Witness, nor what Role may be assigned to this person. Since they always refer to the subject of this Sentence they cannot be used to output the names or other information about other people in the Tag. Position or Role Variables must be used to refer to other people.

When referring to the subject, Subject Variables offer these advantages over the other groups of variables:

[SF] was enumerated in the [Y] census of [L] in the household of [SPP] parents, [P1] and [P2]

Using the two subject Variables shown in red above, it might produce output like this:

John was enumerated in the 1880 census of York Co. Virginia, in the household of his parents, Thomas Smith and Mary Jones.

The First or Given name is not possible with the position Variable [W], which does not have such variations. The Role Variable [RF:rolename] could be used only if there was but a single person assigned that Role. Otherwise the names of all people assigned that Role would be listed.

Pronoun "his" or "her" is similarly not possible with a position Variable, and can only be created with a Role Variable if only a single person is assigned that Role. Pronouns can be entered as text if both male and female Sentences are created, but the subject Variable allows use of only a single Sentence for the Role.

The subject Variables include variations to produce the all the varieties of name parts, possessives, pronouns, age, and parent names offered for any of the Variable groups, and more variations than many other sets of Variables.


Each group of Variables has it place, with different strengths and weaknesses.

With these choices available, the user has tools to meet a variety of situations.

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