1

I'd say both of these uses of "he was shot" make sense:

  1. "How did he die?" -- "He was shot in the street" [meaning shot dead]
  2. "He was shot in the street, but luckily the bullet only hit his foot." [meaning shot at -- there was a bullet coming his way]

Would you agree?

And what would you think of a headline "He was shot in the street". Is the man dead or was he just 'shot at'?

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  • 13
    If he was shot, he was hit, not merely shot at. "Shot" doesn't give any indication whether the injury was fatal. Headlines tend to use "He was killed" or "He was shot dead" or something that also specifically mentions death by the gunshot wound, if that is the case. I don't assume the gunshot wound was fatal if the headline only states "He was shot in the street". – Kristina Lopez Jul 8 '16 at 14:28
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    So we have shot dead, shot (hit him but he lives), and shot at (we don't know if it hit him) ? – Dan Jul 8 '16 at 14:49
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    If the question is: How did he DIE? And the answer is: He was shot in the street. The context is enough to conclude he was shot dead. In that case, one needn't say: shot dead. Obviously, though, a HEADLINE would NOT read: He was shot in the street. That is not headline STYLE as it is a full sentence but also does not convey the fact the man died. {sorry, I'm feeling quite impatient with this). – Lambie Jul 8 '16 at 14:51
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    @R3D Yes. I think He was shot does imply that he was hit. Otherwise it would be He was shot at. But as Kristina points out, saying he was shot does not tell us whether it was fatal or not. – WS2 Jul 8 '16 at 15:03
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    @Mari-LouA I don't know about that. The headlines I've seen today are pretty clear about whether people are dead or not: "Dallas Shooting Leaves 5 Police Officers Dead; Suspect Is Killed" -The New York Times I think if it just says "he was shot" I would assume the victim was alive. – No More Secrets Jul 8 '16 at 16:46
4

And what would you think of a headline "He was shot in the street". Is the man dead or was he just 'shot at'?

Neither. "He was shot in the street" only means he was shot. There's no ambiguity. It means a bullet from a gun struck him. It doesn't mean that the bullet missed him. It also doesn't mean he was shot dead. It makes no implication about whether the bullet killed him or not. All it means is that he was struck by a bullet somewhere on his person.

It'd be no different than if you were to say, "He was stabbed in the street." It's not ambiguous. It means that someone with a sharp object lacerated him to penetrate his person with it. It doesn't mean he was stabbed to death. It doesn't mean that someone tried to stab him and missed. It just means that he was stabbed.

  • 2
    I know it is an off-topic comment, but are you Benjamin Harman that I know? – user140086 Jul 8 '16 at 17:39
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    Although "in the street" can have a connotation somewhat above/beyond merely identifying a locale. In the right context it suggests that something like gang warfare or drug dealing was involved. For instance, if he was shot by a jealous husband one would be less inclined to qualify it with "in the street". – Hot Licks Jul 8 '16 at 17:58
  • @Rathony - The one and only. I haven't been on in a long while. I only came on because I posted a grammar question. I don't know what happened to my old account. I couldn't remember the user name. So this is a new account. – Benjamin Harman Jul 8 '16 at 18:18
  • Ha ha. I knew it. Welcome back to ELU and you have to promise you will never leave it again. You can flag your own answer and ask moderators to help. Your account is here!!! – user140086 Jul 8 '16 at 18:20
  • @Rathony - Flag my own account? You mean this one? Because I don't know what the other one is. Plus, I don't know how to flag my own account anyway. Pretty pathetic, huh? – Benjamin Harman Jul 8 '16 at 18:22
2

I'm nothing if not obedient @Rathony. :-)

Here's my comment, copied into an answer...

If he was shot, he was hit, not merely shot at. "Shot" doesn't give any indication whether the injury was fatal.

Headlines tend to use "He was killed" or "He was shot dead" or something that also specifically mentions death by the gunshot wound, if that is the case. I don't assume the gunshot wound was fatal if the headline only states "He was shot in the street".

-3

Three problems with this sentence. First, unclear antecedent. Who is "he?" Second, "was shot" is in the passive voice. Third, unless "the street" is a part of "his" body, then you need to split this sentence or rearrange it. Example: "The kidnapper" (Now we know who "he" is) ran into the street (now we know where he was), where he was shot (now we know what happened, but there's still that nagging passive voice).

Or: "While the kidnapper stood in the street, police shot him."

  • 2
    You know, the passive voice is not itself an error (or even poor form, in this particular sentence). – Aeon Akechi Jul 8 '16 at 16:06
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    First, we do not need an antecedent, nor need to know who "he" is, in order to interpret the sentence. Second, you fail to explain why "was shot" being in the passive voice is 'a problem'. If we do not know who did the shooting (or if it's irrelevant), the passive voice is quite acceptable . In some circumstances, your third 'problem' might be an issue, but we all know what "in the street" means, and that "the street" is not part of the body! So there is no ambiguity! Finally, you haven't actually answered the Q of whether there is any ambiguity. – TrevorD Jul 8 '16 at 16:09
  • Laurence Sterne had a good deal of fun with this type of ambiguity in Tristram Shandy. Having heard that Uncle Toby had been wounded in the groin at the battle of Naumur, and contemplating marriage with him, the Widow Wadman wants to know if he is disabled sexually, so she asks him exactly where he was wounded. He takes that to mean where on the battlefield, amid the fortifications of Naumur, and he actually builds an extensive model of those fortifications in an effort to answer her question. – Brian Donovan Jul 8 '16 at 17:03

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