In the dictionary:

Dead: no longer alive

Her mother had been dead for ten years.

Her parents were long dead.

The man was already dead

So, what is the difference between "He is dead" & "He was dead"?

If we choose other adjective "nice" for example, then it is so easy

He is nice: At this moment he is nice

He was nice: He was nice in the past but we don't know if he is nice now

But: He is dead: At this moment he is no longer alive, but when he is dead, that event was already in the past even if it only happens a few seconds ago

Or we can say "He has just been dead" seems accurate

He was dead: He is no longer alive in the past.

When to use "He is dead" and when to use "He was dead"?

1 Answer 1


English narrative normally uses the past tense, even to describe ongoing action:

The policeman walked over to the man lying in the dark alley. There was little doubt that he was dead.

Otherwise, in everyday conversation or dialogue, use the present tense.

"My parents are both dead," she said with a shrug. "I guess that makes me an orphan."

  • "He was dead" means he was dead then; "he is dead" is a statement about the present. Regarding the rest of the question, "He has just been dead" is not natural: "he has/had just died" is idiomatic.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 12 at 14:18

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