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Suppose a doctor is telling his patient that he is terminally ill and he's got only a few months to live. I assume this kind of situation can be described concisely with this form,

A doctor is X-ing his patient. (<-- X being an unknown verb)

but I found it's quite tricky to search for this verb (or idiom) in Google. Does anyone have a suggestion?

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    I can't think of a single word (doesn't mean there isn't one), but there are phrases which might do. These range from '...giving very bad news...' to '..conveying the death sentence...'. Other metaphors could be made around putting on a black cap, as judges used to do when sentencing people to death. – simon at rcl Oct 15 '19 at 13:26
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    There is no English verb with the specific meaning to tell someone that they are going to die soon (whether from a terminal illness, because the speaker is about to shoot the addressee, or whatever). Did you really think there might be such a verb? In any language? – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 15 '19 at 13:33
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    I think this is a good question for ELL. It's really about how to communicate in English. – Ben Kovitz Oct 15 '19 at 14:43
  • @FumbleFingers In Korean, there is an idiom that's roughly translated into 'sentencing a time limit'. I guess it's somewhat having a common base concept with 'conveying the death sentence' (that simonatrcl mentioned), but I was unsure whether this rough translation would seem idiomatic. – Gwangmu Lee Oct 16 '19 at 1:51
  • @FumbleFingers Aside from this specific question, I found 'spelling sth out' is worth remembering. I guess I can make a sentence a little less dry than simply using 'telling sth' when the subject is not quite pleasant. :) – Gwangmu Lee Oct 16 '19 at 1:57
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As an idiom, the closest thing I can think of is to drop a bombshell:

[Merriam-Webster]
: to surprise everyone
// She dropped a bombshell when she said she wouldn't run for reelection.

In the sentence in the question, the result would be as follows:

A doctor is dropping a bombshell on his patient.


While this doesn't explicitly say the news is that the patient will die, it would be implied by the use of the idiom and the nature of a doctor having surprising news.

But this also has to do with context. If the patient had already been told they were going to die, and the same thing were said, it's likely it would imply something else. Either that the patient were miraculously cured and wasn't going to die after all, or that (perhaps), things were much worse than expected and their death would happen sooner than thought.

Dropping a bombshell doesn't always imply something negative—but it often does.

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