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Recently, a guest faculty at our college delivered a lecture on the most commonly made errors in English. He pointed out the following sentence:

There were 5 dead bodies.

He said that the above sentence is incorrect and it should be:

There were 5 bodies.

As body is implying that the person is already dead, so there is no need to mention it explicitly.

So, is the first sentence incorrect?

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    @Josh one of the meanings. – Chris H Feb 4 '17 at 9:02
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    'There were 5 bodies' would very often contextually be interpreted as meaning corpses. However, the semantics doesn't demand this. And in any case, redundancy is trumped by usage. Anyone claiming this to be 'an error' is best ignored. An inferior style choice on occasion, maybe. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 4 '17 at 12:27
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    Even if it were redundant, it's not "wrong". It might easily be said for effect, even if the meaning would be clear without "dead". – Hot Licks Feb 4 '17 at 13:31
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    "Over my dead body" is a standard phrase, meaning "I am completely opposed to whatever is being discussed". "Over my body" would be meaningless in the same context. – alephzero Feb 4 '17 at 15:04
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    There can be 'warm bodies', 'hot bodies', 'hard bodies', and I don't want to work through whatever an exhaustive list might be. I'm pretty sure none of those bring thoughts of 'dead'. And when I read "As their bodies pressed together, she...", I can guarantee that I don't imagine corpses. – user2338816 Feb 5 '17 at 5:06
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The usage 'dead body' is not incorrect. Though the word 'body' can be a synonym of 'dead body', it does not have always the meaning 'dead body'. From the MW:

body (plural bodies) Learner's definition of BODY

1[count]

a: a person's or animal's whole physical self

the human body
a part of the body
Her body is very muscular.
A bird's body is covered in feathers.

— often used before another noun

body weight/fat
body parts
A person's normal body temperature [=(Brit) blood heat] is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 37 degrees Celsius.

b : a dead person or animal

The body [=corpse] was shipped home for burial.

c : the main physical part of a person or animal

This species has a black body and a white head.
She held her arms tightly against her body.

So 'body' can be a live body too!

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    I've even heard phrases such as "putting bodies in seats," which refers to live people sitting in those seats working at some job. – David K Feb 4 '17 at 18:51
  • @DavidK Not necessarily live... – Andy Feb 4 '17 at 20:59
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One of the meanings of "body" is "corpse". As it can also mean "torso" or even "person", it's only redundant if the "dead" aspect can be inferred from context. Without context the example sentence has no redundancy and is perfectly correct. If there was some context to set up the meaning, it would still be perfectly grammatical - redundancy of this type is a matter of style not grammar. "Dead corpses" would be completely redundant and is unidiomatic, but "dead bodies" is in common use.

An arbitrarily-selected dictionary (Cambridge) has over a dozen definitions for body as a noun (some quite close), so it would seem reasonable to risk redundancy rather than ambiguity.

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