I found this sentence in the Oxford Dictionary:

A white shirt will show the blood.

What does "show the blood" mean?


2 Answers 2


It's easy to see blood on a white shirt. It's harder to see blood on a black shirt.

So, we can say the blood shows on a white shirt, or a white shirt will show the blood.

You can say the same thing about sweat, stains, dirt, and so on.


'Shows the blood' is used figuratively.

The white shirt can not show, present, or demonstrate the blood because it is an inanimate object. However, the red blood is very easy to see on a white shirt. It is so easy that it is almost like the shirt is making it visible on purpose by being white.

"The cars sell themselves." This sentence uses the same type of figurative language. The cars can not sell anything because they are inanimate. Yet, the cars are really cheap and have great quality so they do not need a salesman to sell them.

  • While I generally agree with your answer, I don't agree that it is figurative. You are assuming that a causitive verb like "show" must have an animate, purposeful subject, and to use it of an inanimate subject is figurative. I don't agree.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 15, 2018 at 8:49
  • @ColinFine "A white shirt will let the blood show." uses a causative verb. It is used in a Subject+CausitiveVerb+Object+Verb formula. "The blood will show on a white shirt." uses a Subject+Verb+Prepostion+Object. It is literal use because "shows+(preposition)" means 'being visible' as opposed to "show" meaning 'present, demonstrate'. Oct 15, 2018 at 9:49

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