I'm curious about newscasters using the term "shot dead" in describing the death of a gun shot victim. Is this correct? They would never describe a survivor as "shot live".

  • Seriously funny question. Good thinking, Sue! – Thursagen May 27 '11 at 10:34
  • 5
    actually, they would - if a video crew came along, they would document the survivor in the throes of surviving - "shot live" so to speak :) – Paul Amerigo Pajo May 27 '11 at 10:44
  • 1
    They'd describe the survivor as "shot live" if the survivor was subsequently broadcast with no tape delay. – Stuart P. Bentley May 27 '11 at 17:45
  • Someone can be 'shot dead' in, for example, the stomach, which means 'shot square' or 'shot directly' in the stomach, and survive. But this is a different meaning of dead. – pazzo Dec 11 '14 at 20:59
  • John Lawler covered this topic more comprehensively in an answer to a later question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/111062/… – MetaEd Jun 16 '16 at 22:43

Yes, it is definitely correct, because shot can mean that one has simply been shot, somewhere to their body, and this doesn't necessarily mean they must have died because of it.

Shot dead, on the other hand, implies that one has died after being shot and it also specifically says that the shooting was fatal (they didn't die because of any other reason).

  • 1
    That's one thing I like about English. If you've been shot, you are wounded, but you're not necessarily dead. If you've been shot dead you are. Dead, that is. In my native language, there is no such distiction. shot and shot dead are the same word, so, it's hard to tell if the person is still alive without getting an additional statement. – teylyn May 27 '11 at 11:25
  • 4
    +1: I'll also note that sometimes you'll hear "killed him dead" colloquially, when someone wants to emphasize the finality of the the action. "That was six sticks of dynamite went off in his truck. Killed him dead just like that." – Robusto May 27 '11 at 11:34
  • 3
    @Robusto it had to be a truck, dint it? Could have happened in a family minivan. And "dead" is then certainly pronounced "dayd" (I just can't help but hear "killed him dead" with a twang or drawl) ;-) – Jürgen A. Erhard May 27 '11 at 11:59
  • @teylyn: and your native tongue is? I know that in German (which is mine), it's "erschossen". But do we have a word for "shot"? Not sure... "auf ihn wurde geschossen" doesn't mean he was hit, just that he was shot at (he may have gotten hit). "shot" vs "shot at". Useful. – Jürgen A. Erhard May 27 '11 at 12:02
  • @jae, You left out that "killed" would be pronounced "kilt". – JeffSahol May 27 '11 at 12:56

To RIMMER's answer I would add:

There is also a sense of immediacy -- shot and he died right there on the spot, as opposed to shot and he died the next day in the hospital. He's dead either way, but "shot dead" isn't generally used in the latter case. (You'd say he was fatally shot, or shot and died of his wounds, or something like that.)

  • 2
    Good observation. Dead is the immediate consequence of shot dead. – Kit Z. Fox May 27 '11 at 14:36
  • Indeed, this is usually the case with verbal complements (common with verbs like "made" and "rendered", but possible with many other verbs. – Colin Fine May 27 '11 at 15:14

I think this is not as much the question of grammar, but of semantics


You shot him dead. > He was shot dead.

as with

You painted it pink. > It was painted pink.

The reason why you can hardly use any other word except "dead" after "shot" is that semantically it does not work i.e. the same reason why you can not say

You painted it loud.

(literary use excluded).

  • Thanks to all for interesting comments. It definitely sounds awkward when I hear it. I prefer shot and killed, or fatally shot, but I hear this a lot. – Sue May 29 '11 at 23:26
  • But we don't use "He was knifed dead" (which 'works semantically') either. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 11 '14 at 23:49

The questioner asked: why not shot live, for a survivor? That would be because in shot dead, dead is the consequence of shot. In shot live, you are not alive because you are shot, but rather you are alive despite being shot.


There are other words that can follow 'shot' that indicate something about the result of the shooting:

He shot that poor boy so bad. (From the song Stagger Lee!) I shot him good. Damn near killed him. He shot the bar up. He shot him down (like a dog). I shot him full of holes. He shot it apart.

Whatever word-class dictionaries assign them, these all seem to function as predicate complements, which makes them 'adjectival' if you must assign them a class in the cases under consideration. The 'good' and 'bad' examples are, erm, informal, but illustrate the grammar. The 'up' and 'down' examples could be construed as phrasal verbs, but 'up' and 'down' are not "modifying" 'shot'. The last three show words indicating result. 'Through and through' is an idiom usually considered an adverb, but word-class does not fully determine function. 'Full of holes' is clearly adjectival and 'apart' arguably so.


I to have a problem with "Shot Dead" being correct English usage. Growing up with in the mid-west we were taught, "Shot and killed". You can not take a dead person, shoot them alive. You shoot a dead person they will remain dead. I read all of the previous posts and find some are trying to compare apples to oranges. However the American usage of the English language has added so many twists and turns, it is sometimes very difficult to know correct usage from incorrect unless the incorrect is so absurd it is hilarious. An add for a bug spray comes to mind " Kills them dead". If you kill them they have to be dead. Shot Dead may be correct, but Shot And Killed sounds better.

  • Hi Rick, and welcome to ELU. As this site is not a forum but a Q&A site, "Answers" should not engage in further discussion. Your answer was already given, and as such, adds nothing to the answers. Please take the site tour and visit the help center for guidance on how to use this site. – anongoodnurse Dec 11 '14 at 21:43

Its plain wrong grammatically i think. I know what they mean but its like the formalization of a concatenation. Its like another one i hear: "shooting death". Who is doing the shooting? - subject verb problem i think. Fatally shot is the correct way to express that thought grammatically.

  • 2
    How can you have a "subject verb problem" when you don't have a subject? (Or was that your point? I can't tell.) Verbs don't always need to be coupled with subjects; e.g., "Swimming is good exercise" or "I found a broken clock" (who broke it? Not important.) Why do you believe "shooting death" is any different from "skiing accident" or "building permit" (or do you reject those as well?) – Scott Aug 29 '14 at 15:54

protected by tchrist Dec 11 '14 at 21:02

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.