I've heard this sentence recently in season 1 episode 1 of the TV show "13 Reasons Why" at about 18:05:

If you don't improve your language, I will kill you dead.

What does “Killing someone dead” really mean?

Note: This is often spoken in America. I've found no any satisfactory solution to this query on the web.

  • Sometimes redundancy is used for rhetorical effect to make a statement stronger. May 25, 2018 at 3:18

6 Answers 6


killed him dead is a colloquialism/regionalism in English.

We do say things like:

... and the outlaw shot the sheriff dead.

where dead is a complement describing the nature and effect of the action, shot, upon the sheriff.

Davy Crockett should be sufficiently merkun to serve as a quintessential example of its use in American English.


The expression "I will kill you (if you ...)" is certainly common, not just in the US but anywhere English is spoken. It simply means "I will be very upset with you", but it's rarely taken as a serious threat on someone's life.

From your link to the Netflix series "13 Reasons Why":

If you ever do something like that to your mother, I will kill you, you understand? I will kill you dead.

I'm not sure of the context, but the father is certainly threatening the son with some kind of extreme punishment. "I will kill you dead" just adds emphasis to the threat. Again, it's not likely the father will actually kill his son, but some kind of physical punishment is possible.

We understand this not from the language itself but from the tone of the comment, and the father's body language. He's clearly upset, so the threat should be taken seriously.

On the other hand, it's possible to use this expression lightly or ironically. For example, at a restaurant where the service is slow:

I'm so hungry I swear, if they don't deliver my food soon, I'm going to kill someone.


As for your note, let me say this: I live in America, and I can tell you that I don't think I've ever heard this expression before. I rarely hear people threaten to take other people's lives, especially for minor infractions such as not improving language.

That said, there is the expression, "I'll kill you," which is occasionally (not "often") used as hyperbole to mean, "I'll be angry with you." For example:

If you wreck my car while you're borrowing it, I'll kill you.

But this really isn't a threat about murder, it's more figurative, meaning:

I will be so upset if you wreck my car while you're borrowing it.

Adding the word dead to the phrase "I'll kill you" makes it sound even more emotional and morbid. I would caution learners against using such language unless it's obvious you're not talking about really hurting someone. A more safe (yet somewhat vulgar) alternative might be:

If you wreck my car while you're borrowing it, I'll be pissed.

  • 1
    @prince as J.R. says "I will kill you" is a relatively common expression to mean "I will be very upset". One variation is "I will kill you dead" but it's not as common.
    – Andrew
    May 24, 2018 at 17:40

"I will kill you" is a straightforward statement: the speaker will take some action to end the life of the person he's talking to. This may be meant as a literal threat, as an exaggerated way to express anger, or as a joke.

"I will kill you dead" does not make sense. Presumably if you kill someone, you will cause them to be dead, so as best the word "dead" is an unnecessary addition. "Dead" is an adjective, like, "Marley was dead", or "I found a dead body in the field". Here it appears to be being used as an adverb.

It is very rare to use "dead" as an adverb, but it is done in a few stock phrases to distinguish a fatal event from a non-fatal event. Like another poster mentioned the phrase "he was shot dead". We also sometimes say, "he fell dead", meaning he fell to the ground and he was dead, as opposed to simply unconscious or just tripped. I can't think of any other such phrases, but there may be a few. You cannot use "dead" as an adverb in general. You can't say, "He caught the flu dead" or "He was in an accident dead".

I can only think of one time I've ever heard someone say "kill dead" like that. That was in a comedy, where a private is afraid that his sergeant is going to be very angry at him for some mistake he made, and he keeps whining, "he's gonna kill me, he's gonna kill me dead". It was clearly intended to be a humorous way to add emphasis. Not only is he going to kill me, but he's going to kill me DEAD.

I'd take it that way here. The speaker is just trying to emphasize the word "kill".


I'm not from the South so I don't know where I picked it up but I say this one all the time, particularly in reference to a repetitive activity or to mean "to complete something as fully as possible", which is also the context in which I've heard it most often. I tell my students we will practice a concept or vocab until we kill it dead, meaning until they know it and they really know it.


It means he killed the victim in a manner that would guarantee certain death. It was not a manner that anyone may survive, and it was probably very quick.

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