Life is Beautiful

R.I.P. Fastblack
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Life is a noun but alive is an adjective and live is a verb. Some learners have problems with these words. Look at the word family:

Word Family

life (noun)
alive (adjective)
live (verb)

Learn more about verbs at this link: verbs

Vocabulary in Context

Look at these two phrases:

The best way to learn words is to learn them in a situation.
The best way to learn vocabulary is to learn it in a context.

Now look at the words above in context:

Life is beautiful.
I am alive.
I live on Earth.


The word ”life” is a noun. It is the subject of the sentence:

Life is always changing.

Change is the only constant.


The word “alive” is an adjective. It is used with a “be” verb in the sentence:

My mother is still alive but my father died a long time ago.


Is your mother still alive?
Is your father still alive?
Are your grandparents still alive?

Tell us about your family in the comments section at the bottom of the page.


The word “live” is a verb. We use it in the normal subject –verb – object pattern:

I live in a small house on top of a mountain.

Pairs of Opposites

Words often occur in contrast with others as pairs of opposites. Look at these examples:

Verbs – Live and Die

In the novel “Catch 22” by Joseph Heller one character says:

It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees,

when he wants to talk about the importance of fighting for freedom. Another character says the first character has got it wrong. It should be:

It is better to live on your feet than to die on your knees.

Living and Dying – Nouns – Activities

To live and to die are often seen as opposite verbs but if you look closer you see that “to live” is a long action which represents living your life. Dying is usually a short action. It does not usually take long to die. Death comes quickly. We might live for seventy years but then we die in a minute, or a second.

It depends of course. Some people have a depressed and negative outlook. If you are obsessed with death somebody might say:

He is dying.

Living and Surviving

The verbs “to live” can be contrasted with the verb “to survive”. If a person has a miserable life, we can say:

He is not really living. He is just surviving.

The Expectation of Happiness

We say this because we all expect to be happy. It is natural to be happy. We are born with the ability to be happy. Happiness is what we expect. We want to live our lives. We don’t want to merely survive. Survival is not enough. We want happiness.
Read more about the vocabulary of happiness

Another Aspect of the Verb “to live”

Each language analyses the world in subtly different ways. German has two verbs to describe “to live”. The German verb “leben” refers to living your life as in:

“I want to live for a long time

The German verb “wohnen” also means “to live” as in:

I live in Germany.

It is better translated by the English verb “reside” but in English:

I reside in Germany,

is very formal. It is not a natural way to speak. It is more natural to say:

I live in Germany.

A Question

Have you ever lived in an English-speaking country?

Tell us about your experience in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Listen to a conversation about Living Overseas and then coming back.

More Opposites – Adjectives – alive and dead

“Alive and “dead” are adjectives. We might say:

My grandmother is still alive but my grandfather is dead.

This is informal style. If we wish to use a more formal register, we can say:

My grandfather passed away a long time ago.

That means:

My grandfather has been dead for a long time.

Opposition in Adjectives – live and dead

When we talk about people we say:

My younger brother is still alive but my elder brother is dead.

But when we speak of animals we talk about:

live snakes
dead snakes

Note that we can use the adjective “alive” to say:

He is still alive.

But we don’t say: an alive snake

In that case we would say:

A live snake.
The snake is alive.

If the adjective comes before the noun we say “live” but if it comes without a noun, we say:

It is a live crocodile.
It is alive.

Link to a conversation about animals

Metal Men 45 - Plutonium Man
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Talking about Objects

When we talk about objects, we can say:

He stepped on a live wire.

In this case an electrical wire fell down and somebody stepped on it.

He was killed by a live wire.

Opposition with People – Nouns

When we talk about people we can refer to them as: “the living and the dead”. The living are the people who live all around us but the dead are the people who rest in the cemetery.

Opposition in Nouns – Life and Death

The nouns “life” and “death” are often used in the title of stories:

Love and Death

The Life of Ivan Denisovich

A Day in the Life

Opposition in Adjectives – lively and dead

A social event like a party can be described as “lively” or “dead”. If people were chatting and laughing and dancing, we could say:

The party was quite lively.

If there were not many people and the people there were sitting around bored and not talking, we might say:

The party was dead.

An Interesting Idea from the Japanese Language

The Japanese language has an interesting word: “nama”, which can be translated as

live music – nama music
tap beer – nama biiru
raw fish – nama sakana
raw egg – nama tamago

Field of Meaning

The field of meaning is the area of meaning. We can see the field of meaning of “nama” (in Japanese) is broader than the field of meaning of “live” in English.

Learn more by clicking the Links

Beauty Comes from the Heart

Travel Broadens the Mind
It is important to be able to trust people
Audio – Motorcycles and Mountains
A Field is an Area
Audio – Japanese Animals
Audio – A Conversation with a guy from GermanyBirth and Death – Vocabulary

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