The Correct Word: Die, Died, Dead, or Death? (English Grammar)

Die, Died, or Dead?

Many students make mistakes with the words die and death. Here is a quick answer:

to die = a regular verb (die/died/died). Example: I don't want to die. / My dog died. / We will die.

dead = an adjective. Example: Elvis Presley is dead. / I saw a dead mouse.

clouds in the sky for the dead

 

There is also a noun, death. It is mainly used in two ways.

1) an uncountable noun.  Definition: The end of life. Note: no article (a/an/the) is needed.

Example: I'm afraid of death. / He likes talking about life and death.

2) a countable noun.  Definition: A situation in which a person dies. 

Example: There were many deaths in the war. / The death of John Lennon made many people sad.

 

Do You Think You Understand?

Choose the correct word for the below sentence.

1. This is a dangerous city. If you go outside at night, you might !

2. In 1000 years, I will .

3. Two years ago, my grandmother .

4. is very sad. I wish we lived forever.

5. The police found a body in the forest.

Answers:

Important Note: Pass Away

We often use the phrasal verb pass away instead of the verb die. It is true that phrasal verbs are usually more casual than regular verbs. However, in this case, pass away is more polite and is better for formal situations. 

For example, it is nicer to say, "I'm sorry to hear that your mother passed away" than "I'm sorry to hear that your mother died." The second sentence is not rude, but the first one sounds nicer. The idea of 'passing away' means that the person has passed on, or moved on to a better place (heaven, for example). This is a nicer idea.

Write Your Own Sentences

What do you think about these questions? Write an answer in the comment area below.

  1. What would you like to do before you die?
  2. What customs does your country follow when someone dies?
  3. Where do we go when we die?
  4. Do you think people should think more about death?

– Matthew Barton / Englishcurrent.com

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45 comments on “The Correct Word: Die, Died, Dead, or Death? (English Grammar)

  1. Mammad (Posted on 10-14-2014 at 19:16) Reply

    I think something wrong !!!!!
    the answer for # 2 must be: In 1000 years I will be die, not I will be dead
    Dead is adjective not a verb.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 10-14-2014 at 20:47) Reply

      Exactly! So the answer is ‘I will be dead’. We use the BE verb before an adjective. =) die is a verb.

      1. GBREDDY (Posted on 3-22-2017 at 00:19) Reply

        You are right.
        ‘Be’ used as verb here.
        Example: He will be there..checkup

    2. GBREDDY (Posted on 3-21-2017 at 07:00) Reply

      I will be die, not correct grammatically.
      I will die ( future simple)
      I will be dying ( future cont.)
      I will be died ( future simple, passive)

      1. mb Post author (Posted on 3-21-2017 at 11:31) Reply

        The fourth sentence is incorrect, however. You can’t make a passive sentence with ‘die’ because the verb has no object (it’s an ‘intransitive verb’). Instead, you would use an adjective (I will be dead).

        1. GBREDDY (Posted on 3-22-2017 at 00:21) Reply

          If I add ‘ by these diseases’,
          I will be died by these diseases. Is it ok.

          Thank you very much.

          1. mb Post author (Posted on 3-22-2017 at 12:23)

            No, you cannot make a passive sentence with ‘die’. Why? Because you cannot ‘die someone’ (the verb ‘die’ cannot have an object ).
            — Compare:
            I killed him. (OK — the verb ‘kill’ can have an object (him) — ‘kill’ is a transitive verb)
            I died him. (WRONG – the verb ‘die’ cannot have an object — it is an intransitive verb)
            I died. (OK — the verb die never has an object after it).

            You can only make a passive sentence with a verb that has an object.

        2. Idibya john (Posted on 1-3-2018 at 17:39) Reply

          “If I died yesterday” is this sentence gramatically correct??

          1. mb Post author (Posted on 1-4-2018 at 01:56)

            Yes!

      2. sam vong (Posted on 3-15-2019 at 23:39) Reply

        to be honest I may say I will be dead. because In 1000 years, It will be a long long times ago. So A 100% is I will be dead.

  2. tiddle (Posted on 4-3-2016 at 22:52) Reply

    Obituaries sometimes use the phrase “so-and-so dies at XXX” and “so-and-so is dead at XXX”.

    While grammatically speaking both are correct, I prefer the former usage as it sounds nicer to me. Calling someone “is dead” sounds like a proclamation (almost with a ha-ha at the end) whereas saying someone “dies” sounds more like someone “passes away”.

    Thoughts?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 4-3-2016 at 23:10) Reply

      Hmm. I slightly prefer ‘So-and-so dies at 80’ just because it’s more concise (re: fewer words). I see what you are saying though.

    2. RC (Posted on 10-17-2019 at 07:32) Reply

      My thoughts are similar…

      “So-and-so is pronounced dead at XX” removes the “ha ha” and keeps the proclamation.

      Thoughts?

      1. Ryan (Posted on 10-17-2019 at 14:08) Reply

        This seems like a phrase you would use after someone has been in the hospital under some scrutiny, i.e. the doctors are not sure if he will survive. Eventually, the doctor pronounces that he is dead. This would be more suitable for someone who died of a long illness, and not suitable for someone who died quickly.

  3. Anonymous (Posted on 12-29-2016 at 07:29) Reply

    But we use the present simple for habitual act or facts or adverbs of frequency so : she dies has got the idea that this person dies every day??!!!!!

    1. mb (Posted on 12-29-2016 at 15:11) Reply

      Yes, it would in regular English. However, newspapers use the present simple in this strange way., e.g. “Trump wins election” means ‘Trump won the election’.

  4. Abhoycharan Basu (Posted on 7-9-2017 at 00:16) Reply

    Nicely explained. Easy to understand and learn the topic. Thanks.

  5. Biyiq (Posted on 9-21-2017 at 08:08) Reply

    So, for number 2 what is the difference between:
    – In 1000 years, I will DIE
    – In 1000 years, I will BE DEAD

    Is it wrong to use DIE in that sentence?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 9-21-2017 at 14:17) Reply

      Both are correct grammatically, but they have different meanings. #1 means that you will die in the year 3017 ( which means you will live another 999 years). #2 just means that you will not be alive (you will be dead, but we don’t know when you died.)

  6. Anonymous (Posted on 2-15-2018 at 10:09) Reply

    Do you say “when did your grandfather pass away”? Is that correct?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 2-17-2018 at 19:33) Reply

      Yes.

  7. mehmet ünal (Posted on 2-22-2018 at 01:31) Reply

    Thanks lot.I understood the differences very well.

  8. Senmong (Posted on 3-11-2018 at 10:09) Reply

    In case of this sentence, which one is correct. I predicted my own death or dead??

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 3-11-2018 at 14:15) Reply

      my own death. [noun]

  9. Irene Richley (Posted on 4-4-2018 at 12:06) Reply

    Why do newspapers and news programmes use captions saying: Fred Smith dies?
    Surely, they should say: Fred Smith died
    or; Fred Smith is dead.

  10. Solomon (Posted on 5-15-2018 at 02:26) Reply

    Is ‘Death don’t pay for Dead’ a correct statement?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 5-15-2018 at 03:37) Reply

      To make it grammatical, it would be “Death doesn’t pay for the dead.” I’ve never heard the phrase, but assume it means that even when people die, they still have debts.

  11. Saiful (Posted on 7-4-2018 at 10:51) Reply

    Sir, what if i wrote .. the truth is the baby was dead in that house…or should I put “is” instead of “was”? Which one is correct?

    1. MB (Posted on 7-4-2018 at 12:23) Reply

      It depends. If you mean that the baby stopped living (the action), you should write, “The baby died in that house.” But if you only want to describe that right now, there is a dead baby in the house, you can write, “The baby is dead in that house.” If you want to describe that, in the past, there was a baby that was not living in the house, you write, “The baby was dead in the house.”

  12. DWL (Posted on 9-13-2018 at 19:39) Reply

    Is this correct? “I had no idea ___ is dead.”

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 9-14-2018 at 01:53) Reply

      Yes

  13. MJ (Posted on 1-2-2019 at 17:25) Reply

    Which is correct:If the man die or If the man dies?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 1-2-2019 at 20:55) Reply

      dies

  14. Bliss (Posted on 2-23-2019 at 03:26) Reply

    How does the word Die change into the word Death? Does it use a prefix or suffix? How does it change into that and what is the name of words that transform like that?
    Thanks! :)

    1. Antonio LaGranda (Posted on 2-23-2019 at 05:39) Reply

      I DUNNO! I searched the whole google but to no avail! Really, for the first time in my 46 years of life, google failed me…(._.)

    2. mb Post author (Posted on 2-23-2019 at 14:25) Reply

      Die is a verb. Verbs can change into gerunds (a verb in ~ing form), which can be used as a noun. In this case, die can become “dying” so you can make sentences like “Dying is part of life” though you could also say “Death is part of life” by using the actual noun ‘death’ (and not the gerund). The word ‘die’ cannot change into ‘death’. The verb ‘die’ doesn’t use any prefixes or suffixes as far as I know (for example undie/disdie/redie aren’t words). .

      1. Bliss (Posted on 2-24-2019 at 08:29) Reply

        Does your concept apply to other words like ‘long’ to ‘length’ and ‘life’ to ‘live’? :)

        1. mb Post author (Posted on 2-24-2019 at 13:28) Reply

          Hello. The concept behind this page is that verbs, nouns, and adjectives are used differently in sentences. In that sense, the concept applies to all English.

  15. Kenneth (Posted on 6-26-2019 at 10:10) Reply

    Is there a difference between “before dying” and “before you die”?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 6-26-2019 at 13:23) Reply

      No. These sentences express basically the same meaning: “Before dying / Before death / Before you die, you should make a will.”

  16. Liks (Posted on 9-11-2019 at 10:42) Reply

    My grandmother passed away yesterday night

  17. Rico (Posted on 10-14-2019 at 08:14) Reply

    What is the correct sentence?
    If I die today, what will you say to me?
    Or I I died today, what will you say to me?

  18. Rico (Posted on 10-14-2019 at 08:16) Reply

    What verb i will use: die or died?

    1. mb (Posted on 10-14-2019 at 13:41) Reply

      If you are in a situation where there’s a real chance that you will die, you should say : “If I die today, what will you say (to me/my dead body)?”. This is the first (real) conditional.
      If you do not think you will die, use the second (unreal) conditional: “If I died today, what would you say to me?”

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