adjective: dead


I think everyone understands the main meaning of the adjective “dead” which is for someone or something to no longer be alive. However, many people don’t know that we can use the word “dead” in other situations. Let me go over them for you now.

1. for a place such as a restaurant or bar to not have many customers. For example:

The bar was dead on Saturday night, so we didn’t stay long.

The restaurant where my sister works has been really dead recently. She wants to find another job.

2. for a business deal to be cancelled. For example:

Our business partners backed out of our deal, so now it’s dead.

I thought our merger with ABC Company was dead, but they just told us they want to go ahead with it.

3. used to express that someone is in trouble with another person. For example:

I just broke my mother’s favorite vase! I’m dead when she gets home!

It’s because of Jim that we lost our biggest client! He is so dead when the boss finds out!

This last meaning of “dead” is only used in casual conversations because this meaning is a little bit slang.

It’s also important to know that when we use “dead” in the normal sense of someone or something losing life, we use the present tense, but not the past tense. For example:

My grandfather is dead now. He died about five years ago.

We CANNOT say: “My grandfather was dead.” because that would mean that he is alive again! Sometimes we say “was dead”, but only when the grammar demands it, such as when we use reported speech. For example:

Martin said his grandfather was dead.

So, these are the common ways to use the adjective “dead”.


  1. maki Said:

    I’ve got a question not really about “dead” but is it all right to say “I just broke my mother’s favorite vase! I will be dead when she gets home!” instead of “I’m dead…”?

    • Hi there.

      Technically, “I will be dead when she gets home.” is perfect grammar. However, it doesn’t sound natural. In natural casual English conversation, in my opinion, most people would say, “I’m dead when she gets home.” It’s like an idiomatic expression.

      Thanks for your question.


      • maki Said:

        Thank you very much, Mike:)

  2. Naoki Said:

    Hello Mike,

    This isn’t exactly how to use the word “dead”. But I want to know what the sentence “you are dead meat” means.

    • Hi there.

      When we say someone is “dead meat”, it means that are in a lot of trouble with another person.

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