I didn't flinch, just stared him dead in the eye without blinking.

Will 'stared' seem natural here or is the phrase only used with 'looked'?

  • 1
    You can certainly stare someone in the eye. Dead is possible although somewhat excessive! Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 14:45
  • 1
    look at someone square or dead in the eye.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 15:16
  • To me, "without blinking" is excessive. "Dead in the eye" does the trick well enough.
    – gotube
    Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 17:32
  • There must be hundreds of written instances of stared him in the eye in Google Books. It's obviously less common if we include dead, but there are still at least dozens of hits for stared him dead in the eye. Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 17:54

1 Answer 1


I have no objections to this specific example personally. But that doesn't generalize well to other questions, and I haven't yet been elected the Final Arbiter of English Usage! So let's look at some ways to answer this kind of question independently the next time it comes up.

In general, if you want to know if a phrase is idiomatic, I would suggest two things. First, try googling the phrase (or a simpler variation). If you get a lot of hits, you'll know that it's at least used commonly enough to be recognized. (You may want to check the websites of the top few hits to make sure they aren't coming from language learners or specific to a particular language community--if you're writing for an American audience, you might not want a phrase that's mainly used in British English or South Asian English, etc.).

For instance, searching the phrase "stared him in the eye" (with quotes) returns many results, including from The Huffington Post, a reputable English-language publication. If you're seeing a phrase used in print, it's probably fine.

The second resource is Google NGram search, which is restricted to the text of published books. People often use it to compare two usages to see which is more common, but you can use it for just one phrase to see whether that phrase appears in print. The NGram search for 'stared him in the eye' shows that the phrase has been represented in print for at least a hundred years, and it's become especially commonplace since the 1990s. (Of course a comparison with 'looked him in the eye' shows that 'looked' is used much more often, but you already knew that, and they mean different things, so you're fine to use 'stared' if that expresses your meaning better.)

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