• "He is in death"

  • "He is dead"

  • "He died"

Are they all correct?

I am feeling that "He is in death" and "He died" are not correct.

  • 2
    All are correct except "he is in death." Death is a state. Why do you think "he died" is incorrect?
    – Usernew
    Oct 27 '15 at 9:15
  • 4
    @Usernew. "He is in love." It's not so strange to wonder about "he is in death", quite honestly. Oct 27 '15 at 11:09
  • 1
    @StephanBijzitter but "he is in death" is grammatically wrong.
    – Mamta D
    Oct 27 '15 at 11:58
  • 3
    I think you're missing my point here. A comment like @Usernew's has no value to the learner (@Tom). Even though it does answer the question, it sounds snappy and does not explain why the correct options are correct and why the incorrect option(s) are incorrect. Oct 27 '15 at 14:12
  • 4
    @MamtaD: No, actually, “he is in death” is perfectly grammatically correct. It just doesn’t make much sense. In related news, colorless green ideas sleep furiously. Oct 27 '15 at 14:39

"Die" is a verb. So "He died" is correct.

"Dead" is an adjective. So "He is dead" is correct. Like any adjective, you can also use it to describe a noun as part of a noun phrase, like, "The dead man had a bullet hole in his head."

"Death" is a noun that refers to the act of dying or to dying as a general concept. You can say, "His death was slow and painful", or "The fear of death has plagued humanity since the Fall." But it is not a state of being, so you cannot say that someone is "in death" like you can say that someone is "in love" or "in despair".

(The phrase "state of being" may not be the best words for the idea I'm trying to express. If anyone can put it better, feel free to come forward!)

  • 3
    Although note the pseudo-Biblical quote that "[in the midst of life, we are in death][1]". A very archaic usage. [1]: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_vita_in_morte_sumus Oct 27 '15 at 15:56
  • 4
    @Patrick - I'd say that's a symbolic usage, not just an archaic one.
    – J.R.
    Oct 27 '15 at 16:18
  • @J.R. I've also seen it in the context of "In death, as in life, [insert some observation or wise-sounding phrase]."
    – JAB
    Oct 27 '15 at 16:50
  • 3
    Let me clarify: It was not my intent to say that it is never meaningful to use the phrase "in death", but rather that, because death is not a state of being, it is not meaningful to say that a person is "in death". It is certainly meaningful to say, for example, "We took no pleasure in the death of our enemies" or "In death, as in life, he looked serene".. But here we are talking about "death the concept", not death as a state that a person could be in. Like you can be happy, and you can experience happiness, and you can seek fulfillment in happiness, but you cannot be "in happiness".
    – Jay
    Oct 27 '15 at 18:36
  • 1
    @PatrickStevens I think that's a poetic usage -- symbolic or metaphorical -- and so the usual rules do not apply. Like "I'm in a New York state of mind" -- might make a good song lyric, but not a guide for conventional usage.
    – Jay
    Oct 27 '15 at 18:38

To say one is in death would be to say that one is in the presence of death. There is a Latin phrase using this very construction: Media vita in morte sumus which translates to "In the midst of life we are in death". It's an archaic phrasing sometimes used in funeral services. So in summary: it is perfectly good (if archaic) grammar but it wouldn't be used in the sense you are using it.


"He is in death" sounds strange for most occasions because his life has already finished and doesn't exist in this world anymore.

"He is dead" is suitable when you want to describe his state of being.

"He died" is suitable when you want to describe what he did, willingly or not.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.