'He died a virgin.'

Or, 'he died as a virgin'?

Why 'as' is not used in the first sentence? Is is grammatically correct to use the first sentence?

I remember in America's got Talent a contestant said to judges that 'Issac Newton died a virgin. And.....'. Out of respect to him I opt to not use his name in the question sentences.


1 Answer 1


"Died" can have a "subject-verb-complement" structure. And the complement can be a noun, or an adjective or a prepositional phrase. "He died a virgin" has the same structure as "He was a virgin". The verb "died" is a linking verb in these sentences.

I know that "a virgin" isn't a direct object, because the passive form *"A virgin was died by him" is completely ungrammatical.

But constructions with adjectives are correct "He died young", for example. Most verbs can't be used as linking verbs like this, and "die" is not normally used this way.

  • I'd call "died" an intransitive verb, not a linking verb. A linking verb usually requires a complement to maintain its meaning, but if we wrote "he died", then the verb would have the same meaning. (Writing "he was", however, would make little sense unless a complement were inferred.) Feb 23 at 21:15
  • Yes, usually it is an intransitive verb, but when used with a complement it is a linking verb. If you don't think "a virgin" is a nominal complement, (describing the subject) then what is it?
    – James K
    Feb 23 at 21:24
  • 1
    You could compare "He came home a hero", "He left a free man", "He was born a slave", even with an adjective: "He came back emptyhanded", "he died happy", "he drove drunk".
    – Stuart F
    Feb 23 at 21:27
  • @JamesK It is indeed a nominal subject complement, but it follows an intransitive (not linking) verb, as in StuartF's examples. A subject complement can even follow a transitive verb (though it is rare): "After completing rehab, I lived the rest of my life a changed man." Feb 23 at 21:28
  • 1
    "He died as a virgin"
    – James K
    Feb 24 at 6:25

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