Dead - Death - Die - Died
Four words that often confuse learners of English are dead, death, die and died.
- My cat is dead.
- It died yesterday.
- Its death was a surprise.
The explanation is quite simple:
- Dead is an Adjective (a descriptive word)
- Death is a Noun (a naming word)
- Die is a Verb (an action word)
- Died is the past tense of the verb Die
Look at the following explanations containing a lot more details and examples. We have also included popular idiomatic expressions for each one.
Dead = Adjective
We use the word dead to describe the lifeless state of something; it is the opposite of alive.
- I forgot to water my plants and now they are dead
= they were alive and now they are without life
- A dead planet
= a planet with no life on it
We can use dead in an informal way to describe a boring place with not many people or much activity
- The bar was dead
= there was nobody (or very few people) at the bar
To go dead means to loose feeling in the part of the body due to temporary lack of circulation
- My leg went dead after sitting on the floor for three hours
= My leg was numb, I couldn't feel it.
To be + dead + adjective (e.g. dead boring) is a slightly outdated British slang for 'completely' or 'totally'
- The test was dead easy
Dead calm or dead silence means total/complete calm/silence, as if there was no life in an area
- After the storm there was dead calm
Expressions using Dead:
I wouldn't be caught dead… (there/wearing that/doing that etc)
= To refuse to and affirm that you would never do something
To stop dead in your tracks
= To stop suddenly or abruptly
Dead as a doornail
= Something that is completely/obviously/certainly dead
In the dead of winter/night
= In the middle of winter/night
Death = Noun
The concept or idea of the state after life. Death is the opposite of life.
- Death comes to us all.
= The state of being dead is inevitable
- Death scares some people
= The idea of dying scares some people
- Drinking alcohol and driving can cause death
= you, or someone else could die if you drink and drive
Expressions using Death:
To be on death's door
= To be very close to dying. Here death is personified.
You'll catch your death outside! = An expression used to warn people about how cold the weather is outside. "You'll catch a cold, or worse!"
To do something to death
= To do something over and over again until it is no longer popular. They've played that song to death on the radio!
A matter of life and death
= A usually figurative way if saying something's extremely important
Die = Verb
The event (action) of death. The opposite of to be born
The past of die is died.
Michael Jackson died in 2009
= the moment in time when MJ stopped living.
My plants have died from thirst = My plants are no longer living because I didn't water them
I nearly died when the waiter gave me the bill at the restaurant = I was shocked by the amount of the bill
I almost died with embarrassment when I fell over in the street = I was extremely embarrassed when I fell over.
He died a very rich/happy/lonely (etc) man = He was very rich/happy/lonely (etc) when he died
She died a painful/peaceful (etc) death = The moment of her death was painful/peaceful (etc)
Expressions using Die:
To be dying to do something = to be desperate to do something e.g. "I'm dying to go on holiday"
To be dying of something = literal or figurative, e.g. "I'm dying of hunger/heat"
Never say die = never surrender/give up
Try our interactive game to practice the difference: Dead - Death - Die - Died
OR go and do something that is a lot more positive :)
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