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Session 3

Thomas Swann fixes a broken door at the theatre… and gives William Shakespeare a great idea for his new play! Pick up some useful expressions with dead, hammer and nail in this episode.

Session 3 score

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    Activity 1
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    Activity 2
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    Activity 3
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    Activity 4

Activity 2

As dead as a doornail - meaning and use

Learn the language

Well done, Charles Dickens wrote the line "Old Marley was as dead as a doornail" in his novel A Christmas Carol!

To do

Now let's look at the meaning and use of as dead as a doornail.  Listen to this extract of the animation to help you remember what the narrator said, and then do the quiz to check you understood.

Listen to the audio and complete the activity

Show transcript Hide transcript

Narrator
We'll leave them there for now. The phrase as dead as a doornail was in common use in Shakespeare's day. It means the same today as it did back then: Dead. Very dead. Totally dead. It's a very well-known English expression - for example, novelist Charles Dickens used it to describe the character Marley in A Christmas Carol:

Clip 1
Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.

Narrator
These days we can use it for electrical gadgets that aren't working.

Clip 2
Oh no - I forgot to charge my phone. It's as dead as a doornail.

Now have a go at this quiz. Look at the transcript if you need extra help.

Can you 'nail' this quiz?!

4 Questions

Are you ready to use as dead as a doornail? Do this true / false quiz to find out.

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y

Can you 'nail' this quiz?!

4 Questions

Are you ready to use as dead as a doornail? Do this true / false quiz to find out.

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y

How did you do?
3-4 correct - well done: you've nailed this expression!
0-2 correct - oh dear! Have a look at the vocabulary box and try again.

Next

Make sure your English isn't as dead as a doornail: go to the next page to bring your language to life with more expressions with ‘dead’!

 

Session Vocabulary

  • For more great Shakespeare content visit our partner,The OU

    For teachers:
    lesson plan and worksheets for As dead as a doornail 
    Eight Vocabulary Activities for the classroom

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    As dead as a doornail

    Meaning
    The phrase as dead as a doornail was in common use in Shakespeare's day. It means the same today as it did back then: Dead. Very dead. Totally dead.

    Example sentence
    Old Marley was as as dead as a doornail. (Charles Dickens)

    Note
    These days we can use as dead as a doornail for electrical gadgets that aren't working.

    Example sentence
    Oh no - I forgot to charge my phone. It's as dead as a doornail.

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    Extra vocabulary

    to hit the nail on the head
    to be exactly right

    to hammer something home
    to make certain something is understood

    to nail it
    to complete a task successfully

    dead easy
    very easy

    dead to the world
    sleeping deeply

    drop-dead gorgeous
    very very attractive

    wouldn’t be seen dead...
    I would never do that, (usually) because it would be too ​embarrassing.

    a dead ringer for...
    looks very similar to...

    Over my dead body!
    I will never let that happen!

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    Find out more

    About Shakespeare Speaks

    Shakespeare Speaks is a co-production between:

    BBC Learning English

    The Open University

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