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If I Wanted You Dead...

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"'d be dead already."

Line uttered to "prove" temporary lack of hostile intentions. You can usually accept this line to be true whenever it is spoken; (almost) nobody ever bluffs a failed assassination attempt this way.

It might come up when a villain who was secretly spying on the heroes or even hiding among their ranks suddenly offers them help, as they happened to have a common goal. Can be made more persuasive by specifying a specific recent opportunity to kill the person being reassured in this manner. A common inversion is to have the person being threatened calmly shake the threat off with the reasoning, "If you were really going to kill me you'd have done it by now." Another common variation is a known assassin or otherwise unscrupulous person who is accused of an assassination, and points out if they had done it, they wouldn't have been caught.

The villain can also claim that it's Not Me This Time.

Not to be confused with I Wished You Were Dead. Compare Break-In Threat. Sister Trope of Varying Competency Alibi.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Reversed in Fullmetal Alchemist during the siege of Central City, when one of Bradley's men notes that since the rebels include the Flame Alchemist and the Hawk's Eye, they should have bodies piling up everywhere. Roy and Riza don't want to kill anyone, so they are deliberately taking non-lethal shots at their enemies... just to drive home this exact point.
  • In GTO: The Early Years, When Abe chews out Minamino for punching him "as hard as he could" for being one minute late to class:
    Minamino: If I had hit you as hard as I could, I would have decapitated you and your head would be rolling... 30 meters away...
  • In Gunsmith Cats, Goldie has kidnapped Misty and is dragging her off someplace where she can brainwash her into a sex slave. Rally puts a bullet through the palm she's extending to yank Misty from the car from five hundred yards away. Goldie realizes that the only reason Rally did not put that round through the top of her spine is because she removed Rally's brainwashing - but if she tries to take Misty, the next one will. She leaves peacefully.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
    • Stardust Crusaders: Hol Horse gets the idea of killing DIO while he's looking the other way, thereby freeing himself from servitude. Before he can fire, however, DIO casually moves behind Hol Horse using The World, going as far as commending Hol Horse's ambition and composure before leaving without another word. The implications are unmistakable, and Hol Horse submits again to DIO immediately.
    • Diamond is Unbreakable: After discovering Yoshikage Kira disguised as his father, Hayato tries to come up with a strategy to expose him. However, Kira is assured that Hayato is unable to reveal his secret and point-blank states he could have killed Hayato earlier if he was that much of a problem.
  • Madlax essentially said this in actions, not words, in episode 3. When the "scary chick" guard commander is attempting to zero in on her after she has killed her target ( who hired her to do it), twin shots are heard, and the commander's beret flies off, with a track cut through the top. Madlax had her dead to rights, and both of them knew it, yet she spared her.
  • My Girlfriend Gives Me Goosebumps!: When Kisaki confronts Rinko two days after she warned Haruka to stay away from Kisaki, she reassures Rinko that if she was going to do “something” she would have done so the day before. But since it made Haruka confess to Kiseki, she has no reason to hurt Rinko, so she is just here to thank her.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • Negi does something along these lines to the demon that petrified his hometown. Negi knows a spell for killing demons, but decides not to use it. Of course, said demon wasn't entirely evil anyway.
    • The general theme of "I won...? Wait, that means you must have let me win!" is used continually throughout the series; this is at least the second time it's applied to a supposed life-or-death struggle.
  • There is a little variation of this in Naruto. After Sasuke's fight with his brother Itachi, Tobi reveals to him that Itachi never really planned on killing him. Sasuke, of course, doesn't believe it, to which Tobi replied: "But you're still alive! [...] If he really planned on killing you, you would've..."
  • In Parasyte, a parasite reassures Shinichi (who is naturally freaking out) that an invitation to meet for coffee with another parasite is benign by citing this trope.
  • Zoro from One Piece does this to Monet during their fight, who knows Zoro can use Haki but chose not to when cutting her in half, only disabling her. This near-death experience made Monet so overwhelmed with fear that they weren't able to reform properly and made an easy target for Tashigi to finish her off.
  • Trigun: The ever affable Vash the Stampede has his own way of expressing this trope. When threatened by some would-be thugs in episode 5, he kills their momentum by nailing them all in the face, twice, with a child's plunger-dart gun.

    Comic Books 
  • In Atomic Robo, Egypt's armed forces tell this to Robo and his Action Science Team after shooting at him because he blew up a pyramid. It Makes Sense in Context, mostly.
  • The Kingpin to the Runaways: "If there was going to be violence at this table, it would be over and you would be dead."
  • Parodied at the tail end of the "Bwah-ha-ha!"-era Justice League International, with this exchange among reformed members of the former Injustice League, after an attempt to pay their respects to a comatose Maxwell Lord goes very badly wrong:
    "This is ridiculous! If we'd wanted to kill Lord, he'd be dead by now!"
    "Judging by our track record, if we'd wanted to kill Lord we'd be dead by now."
    "True. But either way, they should know he's in no danger!"
  • Subverted in Nikolai Dante. Scarlett Areteria opines that Katarina Dante is getting weak. Katarine responds by shattering Scarlett's wine glass with a whip, and saying she could just as easily have put it between Scarlett's eyes. Scarlett responds that in the old days, she would have.
  • Clone!Bird!Thomas Edison tells Ms. Marvel (2014): "I'm not trying to kill you. Bots and bionic alligators are a very inefficient way to kill someone. I'm not the kind of mad genius who's actually an idiot. When I want to kill you, you'll know."
  • Discussed in the Superman storyline Time and Time Again, when Superman's current jumps through time send him to 1943, allowing him to save President Roosevelt from a German assassin. After the assassin is killed by a ricocheting bullet, the Secret Service point their weapons at Superman, but Roosevelt calmly accepts his savior's assurance that the man was just trying to save Roosevelt's life. Roosevelt explicitly points out that a man who could crash through a wall and crush a gun in his bare hands could have easily killed him already if that was the other man's intention.
  • Ultimatum: If Nick Fury wanted Doom dead, he would be dead already.

    Fan Works 
  • All Assorted Animorphs AUs: In "What if Elfangor and Loren raised Tobias?", the Animorphs aren't sure if they can trust Elfangor at first because he might be a Controller, until Ax points out that they'd already be screwed if the Yeerks had another Andalite mind who knows Earth far better than Alloran ever did.
  • In Ambience: A Fleet Symphony, Sanford reassures Damon that he needn't worry about the insubordinate Shiranui trying to slit his throat in his sleep, because she would have already done so if she had had the thought.
  • Avenger of Steel:
    • When Fury asks how they can trust Superman after Zod’s actions, Superman points out that if he was Earth’s enemy he could have already destroyed the Helicarrier without anyone present (including five of the six original Avengers, with Thor currently isolated on Asgard) able to stop him.
    • Later referenced in the first confrontation with 'Black Sky', who is really a teenage Rachel Roth; as Superman observes, if the girl wanted to kill him, Matt and Jessica, she could do it easily, and yet she only attacked her captor and then presented herself to the three in a non-threatening manner.
  • Discussed in The Cutting Edge when Laurel Lance makes contact with Helena Bertinelli to encourage her to join Black Canary as a more "official" vigilante. Laurel wins Helena over by pointing out that Helena trying to dismantle her father's criminal operations proves that she truly wants justice, because if all Helena wanted was her father dead she could easily just shoot him at home.
  • In Daphne Greengrass and the Boy Who Lived, this is basically Daphne's argument for why Snape can't be trying to kill Harry by jinxing his broom during Harry's first Quidditch match; as the Potions master, Snape knows far more sophisticated and subtle methods of killing Harry if he really wanted Harry dead.
  • Tanizaki Kazuo, the Big Bad of The Dark Lords Ascendant, claims that knew all about the Sailor Senshi since they first appeared in public, and was observing them in secret ever since. If he wanted to, he could have Usagi hit by a drunk driver on her way to school, or have Makoto die in her sleep from carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty furnace, or have Haruka's bike suffer a catastrophic mechanical failure during one of her races. Of course, if he did stoop to that, Pharaoh 90 or Sailor Galaxia would've stomped on the world long ago, of which fact he is very much aware.
  • In Eleutherophobia: Escape from L.A., Tom tries to explain to past-Rachel that he and Eva had ample opportunities to kill the Animorphs over the past few hours, but didn't, in an attempt to prove that they're not controllers. She doesn't listen.
  • Invoked in Harry Potter and the Mystic Force after the Rangers overreact to finding Harry in Rootcore on their first meeting and Harry tries to protest that he wasn't there to fight, although downplayed as it is established that he wouldn’t have been able to do much to the Rangers given their greater raw magical potential.
  • In Harry Potter and the Prince of Slytherin, Harry brazenly asks Lucius Malfoy, with whom he'd just allied, whether Malfoy had been responsible for several somewhat ostentatious attempts on his life over the past year. Offended, Lucius (who says he is "not a fan of the Grand Guignol") states that if he'd wanted Harry dead, he'd have just used the Imperius Curse on Harry's uncle Vernon and ordered him to murder Harry in his sleep and then burn the house down in a way that would make it look like an accident. Harry, a Slytherin, finds this answer acceptable.
  • Hero Chat: Chat Noir's Cataclysm acts on the basis of his intent. The effects on a person depend on how much he wants to hurt them, such as only damaging their ribs or a jolt of pain if he only wants to harm them. Adrien has no desire of actually harming, much less killing, another human being, though Luka points out that telling an Akuma they're only alive since he didn't want them dead would be rather metal.
  • If Wishes Were Ponies: The UK government comes to the conclusion that the Equestrians are serious about wanting a peaceful relationship between Earth and Equus because of this trope. Considering their magic and gold (not to mention the power held by the princesses and Discord), if they wanted to take over Earth they could've easily done it in a weekend. Castor also sights this trope as a reason why Twilight Sparkle is clearly honest in her endeavor to legally (in both worlds) become Harry's guardian; considering her knowledge of Equestria and her political position, she could've easily taken Harry back to Equestria and made it so that no one in England could ever find him again.
  • In Infinity Crisis, the heroes of the Arrowverse convince the Avengers to trust them by having Barry, Wally and Kara demonstrate how easy it would be for them to take out the Avengers if they were actually enemies (Barry and Wally neatly disarm most of the Avengers and Kara lets Natasha shoot her in the face twice before forcing her to drop her gun).
  • Two cases in the remastered version of The Night Unfurls.
    • Inverted at the end of Chapter 6. Olga realises that Kyril could've easily one-shotted her back in their duel, just like how he does to Vault with that star missile magic she has never seen before.
    • Present at the end of Chapter 12 in Kyril's "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the Seven Shields. In response to the accusation that he is conspiring against the crown, he states that he could've severed Celestine's head while no one would be able to stop him. Moreover, the reason why no one is dead is because he has business to attend to, and they are all Not Worth Killing.
  • On the Run: Clark doesn’t bother saying it out loud as Lex clearly isn’t thinking rationally, but as he has to deal with more of Lex’s hired goons trying to kill him as an "alien invader", he reflects that if he truly was the monster Lex believes he is Clark would have killed Lex ages ago.
  • Peace Forged in Fire: Velal uses this line when the traffic control guy at Khitomer decides to be an Obstructive Bureaucrat over Velal refusing to tell him what the Praetor of the Romulan Star Empire is doing in Klingon territory. (Morgan defuses the confrontation by threatening to get the Klingon High Council involved.)
    Velal: If you wish, you may contact Governor Leskit’s office for the information for which you are cleared, but rest assured our mission here is peaceful.
    Khitomer Control: Why should we believe you?
    Velal: If our intent was otherwise, we would not be having this discussion and a third of this planet’s population would already be dead, Klivam.
  • The Games We Play: In "Surprise Box" Jaune reassures General Ironwood that he's not there to attack, because he would already have done so were that his goal.
  • In Supergirl (2015) fanfic Survivors, Jason Connolly approaches Jeremiah Danvers trying to reassure him that if he wanted him dead, he would have already done so.
    Jason: Again, I mean you no harm.
    Jeremiah: I'm just supposed to take your word for that?
    Jason: If I wanted to harm you I could have killed you six times already standing here. I've been watching your house for near a week now and could have attacked at any time. I could have approached your wife or daughter. I haven't done any of those things.
  • In This Bites!, Cross and Robin do this on behalf of Aokiji, stating that if he was there to kill them, he'd have sunk their ship from miles away.
  • Time Fixers: Nicktoons of the Future: In "Shadow of the Past", Darry ends up in a bad neighborhood and is beaten up by some thugs until being saved by Vlad Masters and taken into his home for treatment. Darry is reluctant to trust him until he explains, "If I wanted you dead, I would've left you outside."
  • Invoked in the Supernatural/Lucifer (2016) crossover "Tripping Down the Rabbit Hole"; when Supernatural Gabriel arrives in Lux after his confrontation with Apocalypse World Michael, he observes that it's clear this world's Lucifer isn't as bad as the one from his world for the simple reason that Lucifer's been on Earth for years and there's no Apocalypse.
  • After Valerie Payne is kidnapped by Shendu in The Ultimate Evil, they have this exchange:
    Valerie: If you're going to eat me then get on with it already!
    Shendu: If I wanted you dead, I could have done a thousand different things to end your mortal existence. But I haven't. You're more use to me alive and healthy for where we're going.
  • The Arc Villain of Sleeping Beetle notes to himself that he very much does not want to kill Lydia and is going to do whatever it takes to keep her alive, because she's of no use to him dead.
  • Occurs frequently in With This Ring, since there are a lot of meetings between people with large power imbalances.
    • When meeting with Klarion the Witch Boy, Paul points out that he's still carrying the Sword of the Fallen and could have just killed him out of hand if that was his intent. Subverted since he actually does want to end Klarion permanently, he just wants to steal all of Klarion's power first.
    • After spending a week as a Physical God, Paul plausibly points out that he couldn't be a mole within the Team, because he could have done anything he wanted in that time, but didn't harm anyone.
    • The Renegade assures Black Manta that he needn't fear poison in his coffee, even though the Renegade isn't having any; he has plenty of faster, easier and more effective ways to kill someone.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2, Po is shot by Shen’s cannon and is left for dead floating face-up down a river, until the Soothsayer rescues him and nurses him back to health. When Po wakes up, she offers him some medicine. Po, distrusting her, refuses, so the Soothsayer uses an acupuncture needle to force his mouth open, tosses the medicine down his gullet, undoes her nerve strike, and tells him that if she had wanted him dead, she would have left him in the river.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Variation in The Living Daylights. Bond has been sent to assassinate General Pushkin based on information given by Georgi Koskov and the latter's subsequent kidnapping. When Bond confronts Pushkin at gunpoint in his hotel room, Pushkin gives a different side of the story and tells Bond that it all comes down to who he trusts - Koskov, or him.
    Bond: If I trusted Koskov, we wouldn't be talking.
  • The Godfather has Virgil Solozzo stopping Tom Hagen in the street "asking" him to get into the car with him, with 2 goons behind Tom showing there is no option. When Tom still seems uneasy to follow throw, Solozzo uters the phrase: "What are you worried about? If I wanted to kill you, you'd be dead already."
  • In Dirty Harry, Harry shoots Scorpio in the leg.
    Scorpio: [crying with reason] You tried to kill me!
    Harry Callahan: If I tried that, your head would be splattered all over this field.
  • Zig-Zagged in the 2008 Get Smart movie:
    Siegfried: How do I know you're not CONTROL?
    Maxwell Smart: If I were CONTROL, you'd already be dead.
    Siegfried: If you were CONTROL, you'd already be dead.
    Max: Well, neither of us is dead, so I'm obviously not from CONTROL.
    Shtarker: That actually makes sense.
  • Wanted: "If your name had come up, you'd already be dead."
  • Mr. Brooks:
    Mr. Brooks: Don't worry. If I were here to kill you, you would already be dead.
  • Jumanji: Van Pelt reassures Sarah that she'd be dead if she was his target, but he's only hunting Alan.
    Van Pelt: Stop your cringing, woman; I could have shot you at any moment.
  • Used to a point in The Princess Bride, when Fezzik misses the Man in Black's head with his rock on purpose, so they can fight it out "sportsman-like." I.e. without weapons.
  • In the Russian film D Artagnan And The Three Musketeers, the titular hero accuses Milady de Winter of shooting him when he was riding a horse. She responds with scorn that "If I'd been shooting you, you'd have been dead. I was shooting your horse!"
  • The Shadow (1994):
    Shiwan Khan: Kill you? *chuckles* If I wanted you dead, Ying Ko [referring to Lamont], I would have your liver on a pole right now.
  • Marcus makes this point to try to convince John Connor that he isn't hostile in Terminator Salvation.
  • Not actually stated, but the spirit is certainly there in Predators. After the Russian has nearly mowed him down with his BFG, Royce flanks him, and puts his gun to the Russian's head.
    Royce: Please stop doing that. We're not your enemy.
    Russian: How do I know that?
    Royce: Because otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation.
    Russian: *Accepts this and joins the party*
  • Baron (Vladimir) Harkonnen, in the Dune movie/miniseries (meaning the Sci-Fi-channel one with Ian McNeice playing him):
    Baron: (to Feyd) ...and don't get any ideas. my men have you in their sights even as we speak. (laughs) Oh, don't worry. If I'd wanted you dead you'd never have made it down the hall.
  • In Die Hard with a Vengeance, Simon Gruber says a tweaked version of this to John McClane after John challenges him to come on down to the police plaza to "figure this out like a couple of men".
    Simon: If killing you was all I wanted, you'd be dead by now.
  • In Underworld: Awakening, Selene confronts a detective with a gun to his face. He tells her that she won't kill him—because if she wanted to, she wouldn't need a frigging gun.
  • In Silverado, Mal is shooting at Sheriff Langston and his men, covering the Jake and Emmitt's escape by shooting off Langston's hat. When the deputy mentions that he hasn't hit anything, Langston tells him, "You idiot, he's hit everything he's aimed at! ... Pick up my hat."
  • In Cloud Atlas, Intrepid Reporter Luisa Ray survives an assassination attempt, then sneaks into her flat to clean herself up - only to find a Scary Black Man employed by the Corrupt Corporate Executive she's investigating Hand Gagging her and saying this line. Luisa responds by headbutting him, then holding a knife to his throat and repeating the line herself. The man approves of her spunk, as he's an old war buddy of Luisa's late father and has come to help.
  • At the start of Babylon A.D., Toorop gets the drop on a mercenary who's been sent to fetch him. Cue Bilingual Dialogue in Russian, then Toorop saying in English, "No shit! If you wanted me dead, you'd have blown up the building!"
  • In Beverly Hills Cop, Da Chief points out to Axel that his friend was killed by professionals. "Otherwise, your brains would be splattered alongside his." Justified — both Axel and his friend were knocked out by the killers, who then put a single bullet in the head of Axel's friend. As Axel hadn't seen their faces (and they didn't know he was a policeman), they left him alone.
  • In the climax of Jurassic Park III, the group gets ambushed by a pack of Velociraptors who want their stolen eggs back. Alan Grant points out that the raptors would've killed them outright if they'd wanted.
  • Uttered verbatim by Superman to Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Clark is trying to get Batman's help rescuing his mother Martha Kent, who's being held hostage by Lex Luthor, and is only fighting enough to defend himself, but Bruce fully intends to kill Superman and doesn't give him time to explain himself.
  • John Wick: Chapter 2. John Wick is meeting Winston in Central Park, when at his command every single bystander turns to face them. Winston however gives him an hour's Mercy Lead.
    Wick: Then why am I not dead?
    Winston: Because I deemed it not to be.
  • In The Empire Strikes Back during the torture scene, though not said directly.
    Princess Leia: Vader wants us all dead.
    Lando Calrissian: He doesn't want you at all! He's after someone called Skywalker!
    Han Solo: Luke?
    Lando: Lord Vader has set a trap for him.
    Leia: And we're the bait!
  • Inverted in 2017's Murder on the Orient Express: Poirot is shot by a suspect who confesses to the crime, then tries to finish off Poirot, saying "Why aren't you dead yet?" Afterwards Poirot realises that's a fair question as the suspect is a marksman, and that Poirot would be dead if the man had wanted him to be. He never intended to kill Poirot; he was Taking the Heat and wanted his confession to appear convincing.
  • In Kingdom of Heaven, Guy makes a disdainful remark regarding Tiberias' relatively amicable relationship with the Saracens. Tiberias replies, "That I would rather live with men than kill them is certainly why you are alive."

  • Book of the Dead (2021): This is the essence of Tyron's diplomacy with the village of Cragwhistle, after he breaks a rift-kin siege. The villagers were slowly losing to the kin, and he just exterminated the kin, so if they truly think he wants to kill and harvest them all, they should be wondering why he hasn't. (He actually just wants to trade for supplies before moving on.)
    Tyron: Not to put too fine a point on it, but I could kill all of you right now if I wanted to.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Harry and Hermione are at the graveyard in Godric's Hollow, they hear something rustling in the bushes, but after a moment of waiting and listening Harry points out that if it was a Death Eater they'd be dead by now (well, they would actually be unconscious since the Death Eaters were trying to capture him, but the point stands). For some reason, they decide that them not being dead means that the place is safe, and not, you know, that they should be more prudent.
    • Inverted by Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: "If you were going to kill me, you would have done it when you first Disarmed me, you would not have stopped for this pleasant chat about ways and means." (He accuses Malfoy of being half-hearted in his assassination attempts.)
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel His Last Command, when Gaunt takes Commissar Kanow hostage, he points out that he could have killed and didn't. (Kanow is unpersuadable. Gaunt has his men overpowered and gets Ludd, the junior commissar, to make the contacts he needs to prove his identity.)
    Look, sergeant. I had the stone drop on you just then, and yet no one's dead so far. Is that the act of a heretic or a deserter?
  • In Flood by Andrew Vachss, it's stated that martial arts badass Max the Silent is so notorious, no one even laughed when a judge told him he had the right to remain silent during an attempted murder trial. After all, everyone knew Max never attempted to murder someone.
    • Discussed in Another Life, where Burke tells a Saudi prince whose baby boy got kidnapped that if the kidnappers wanted to hurt the baby, they would have done it there and then. Later used when Burke confronts a street gang that tried to make trouble for Gateman. Burke tells them to line up and have their photos taken, reminding them that they would already be dead if Burke and co. wanted it so.
  • In the second Mistborn book, apparent Starscream Zane continually tries to kill his father Straff, but only because it's what Straff expects, as it's what he'd do if their positions were reversed. Zane never says the trope line out loud, but he does think it to himself during his POV sections.
    • Although Zane never actually did try to kill his father. The poisoning attempts were made by someone else, and Zane simply let his father think he was the one responsible.
  • In Matthew Reilly's Scarecrow, Schofield (the target of a bounty hunt) is offered aid by a notorious bounty hunter.
    "Captain, if I was going to kill you, you'd already have a bullet in your brain. ... The bounty on your head is $18.6 million dollars. Rest assured, I am being paid considerably more than that to make sure you don't get killed."
  • In the book version of The Hunt for Red October, the Soviet fleet goes on "blockade" duty off the U.S. Atlantic coast for the rogue missile sub, making the Americans distinctly nervous. Being the height of the Cold War, the U.S. decides to make a few demonstrations to the Sovs of what would happen if the Red Banner Fleet were ever to move aggressively. The most spectacular of them involved four A-10s racing under the radar horizon of the fleet and boxing the battle cruiser Kirov with flares. The exact message that the pilots wanted to send was, word for word, "If we had been serious, you'd be dead by now".
    • This was not entirely unprovoked. During one of these "buzzing" operations a jumpy Russian pilot had lobbed a missile at an F-14, damaging it enough that it crashed upon it's return to base.
  • A variant not involving death occurs in David Drake's Northworld trilogy. Main character Hansen comes to visit Gadgeteer Genius Ritter, who's working on a project for him. Ritter isn't getting very far on the project, and he snappishly says something about Hansen checking up on him. Hansen, who's been given godlike powers, thinks, If I wanted to check on you— and demonstrates that his powers would let him spy on Ritter completely undetected.
  • By Isaac Asimov:
    • A variant appears in the novelization of Fantastic Voyage. The mission experiences several misadventures, each of which could have been accident or sabotage. All but one of the specialists are eliminated as suspects because something went wrong in their respective areas of expertise that they could have sabotaged far more subtly and effectively.
    • Another variant in "The Dying Night", where a paper of an important invention is copied and destroyed after the scientist's death. The man's assistant is the first suspect, but Dr. Wendell Urth points out that with the scientist's secrecy, he could have simply walked out with the papers. He had no reason to believe the scientist talked with anyone else, and if he knew otherwise, no reason to suspect he was taken seriously.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Not death, quite, but Harry and Murphy are talking and it comes out that Harry witnessed a murder without telling the police.
      Harry: This again. I remember how this goes. You slug me in the jaw and arrest me.
      Murphy: I damn well should.
      Harry: Hell's bells, Murph!
      Murphy: Relax. [sigh] If that was what I had in mind, you'd be in the car already.
    • Lasciel says this to Harry too, by pointing out that she could kill him whenever she wants by giving him hallucinations that would make him fall to his death.
    • In Dead Beat, Harry inverts it. When Kumori appears to him in a stairwell out of a veil, holding power ready, having him dead to rights, his inner monologue concludes that she must want to talk because she could've easily have killed him if she wanted to.
    • In Small Favor, the Summer Knight Fix gets the drop on Harry by pointing a shotgun at his head while Harry is in the car with Thomas. The Summer Knight doesn't actually follow through on it when Harry calls him out on this, saying that Harry has a point. Before he's finished speaking, Thomas has drawn a gun and pointed at him. Harry rebukes Thomas for pointing a gun at Fix's head, takes the gun from him, gets out of the car, and points the gun at Fix, noting that he really doesn't like it when friends point guns at him. It's all a smokescreen, because Fix can't warn Harry directly about something important, and resorts to making strange threats to warn him instead.
    • Another variation in Changes, when Harry meets with Marcone. Harry makes a couple of pointed threats to Marcone, and Marcone just smiles and states that there are a great many beings ahead of him on Harry's shit list, and they are all more dangerous than himself; so if he wants Harry dead, all he has to do is sit around and wait.
  • Animorphs:
    • Not exactly "dead," but there's an exchange in #10, right after Erek discovers Marco, unmorphed and fairly helpless, hidden in the grass in a field crawling with Controllers.
      Erek: Stay here. I'm going to lead them away. Then come and meet me at this address. I want to talk to your leader.
      Marco: How do I know that this isn't a trap?
      Erek: Why would I do that?
      Marco: Maybe you want to catch all of us at once.
      Erek: Marco, you seem like a brave guy. But if I wanted to know who and where your friends were, I'd give you to Visser Three right now. You would talk.
  • The Reptile Room:
    Stephano/Olaf: If I wanted to harm you, orphan, your blood would already be pouring down these stairs like a waterfall.
  • David Isaak's Shock and Awe:
    Rex Atwater: My point is that Western civilization is cutting its own throat. Our enemies hit us as hard as they can, but we're supposed to strike back in a limited, perfectly accurate, fair way... and always apologize. Do you remember during the invasion of Iraq, when all of the Arab press was crying out they're deliberately targeting civilians? And the White House responds with patient denials, instead of saying, Christ, if we were deliberately targeting civilians, do you think there'd be anybody left to bitch?
  • In one of the Legacy of the Aldenata novels, Cally O'Neal actually uses this as a legal defense in court. The man she shot claimed she tried to kill him. She claimed that he tried to rape her and she shot him in self-defense. She resolves the argument by taking the jury to a firing range and conclusively proving that if she could have easily killed the man at the range he was shot if she'd wanted to. The man is arrested for attempted rape and posters are put up around town with her picture and the message: "WARNING! Jailbait. To be considered Armed and Dangerous."
  • Honor Harrington:
    • From the novel Echoes of Honor:
    "Commodore Ramirez, what possible motive could the Peeps have for 'luring' you out here and pretending to be Manticorans?" she demanded. "If they wanted you dead, all they'd have to do would be to stop delivering food to you! Or if they're too impatient for that, I'm sure a little napalm, or a few snowflake clusters — or an old-fashioned ground sweep by infantry, for goodness' sake — could deal with you!"
    • Done as a ship-to-ship threat occasionally, usually with the Manticorans firing a salvo of missiles, then detonating them just outside of lethal range to tell their enemies, "We can utterly destroy you whenever we feel like it. Surrender."
    • Another less provocative method is referred to as "Mapping their hull". In essence, it involves cranking your active radar sets up to maximum and blasting the other ship at a high enough intensity and short enough range to temporarily white out their sensor screens. It can be done either to warn another ship to stop crowding you, or to administer the space warfare equivalent of a Dope Slap to an inattentive ship that has let you get too close without response. Note: this is considered less provocative than launching a volley of nuclear missiles, which is not the same as saying it is not provocative. Almost every instance of this technique being used, sometimes in combination with Friend or Foe? confusion, has lead to an intense firefight, and on one occasion came dangerously close to triggering an interstellar war.
    • Alice Truman didn't quite quote this trope in A Rising Thunder, but she came close.
      Your ability to interpret a tactical situation would appear to be every bit as good as Josef Byng's and Sandra Crandall's, Admiral. If we'd wanted to 'ambush' you, you'd be as dead as they are by now.
  • In Stone of Tears, second book of the Sword of Truth series, Kahlan discovers that her Con Dar bloodrage from the previous book has left her with a Hand Cannon-esque magic attack that appears to blow through just about anything. In the fourth book, hinking this puts her on even ground with witchwoman Shota, she goes into her domain to have a chat, and boasts that with that power, she has nothing to fear from Shota's power. The witchwoman shrugs, and points out that, if Shota wanted her dead, the magic would've done absolutely nothing to stop her from poisoning the tea Kahlan had just drank, which quickly deflates Kahlan's notions of invincibility.
  • In the Robert Crais novel L.A. Requiem, Cole does a variation of this by saying it about Pike, not himself, when Pike is suspected of being responsible for the murder of a witness. A bit of an atypical variant, as the guy actually is dead and Cole is explaining why Pike didn't do it:
    Cole: "If Pike were going to kill him, you'd never find the body. He'd dispose of Dirsch and leave you wondering what happened. Pike is the most dangerous man I know and I've known more than a few."
  • In the Roy Johansen novel Beyond Belief, Joe Bailey confronts murderer Stuart Dunning and accuses him of the murder of Robert Nelson, which he committed in a manner that made it appear telekinetic in nature. Dunning declares "If I had telekninetic powers, we wouldn't be having this conversation." Subverted in that he does indeed want to kill Bailey, but is using this to deny the original murder.
  • In the Ciaphas Cain novel Duty Calls, the Big Bad invites Cain to a meal and tells him not to worry about poison; if he was to be killed, it would have been done already with gunfire.
  • Used second-hand in The Truth. To make a long story short, an altercation ends up with Vetinari's assistant, Drumknot, receiving several knife wounds, which certain parties pin on Vetinari. William DeWorde smells a rat, not because he doesn't believe that Vetinari would stab someone, but because DeWorde doesn't believe that Vetinari would stab someone without killing them.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Shadows of Steel, a back channel special envoy between the Iranians and the US is told that the President is still in control of the situation, for if he wasn't, overt military action would have been taken already.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • In The Way of Kings (2010), King Elokhar of Alethkar suspects that his uncle Dalinar is trying to kill him. For most of the book, Dalinar tries to quietly demonstrate his loyalty, but after Elokhar's attempts to investigate Dalinar backfire spectacularly and result in almost six thousand of Dalinar's soldiers getting massacred, Dalinar finally has had enough. He proceeds to break into Elokhar's quarters, utterly Curb Stomp Elokhar despite the fact that Elohkar has a Shardblade and Shardplate while Dalinar is unarmed, and finally ends up with Elokhar under him, utterly helpless.
      Dalinar: I tried to give you loyalty... but if you act like a child, you'll get treated like one. Now you know that I don't want to kill you. Because if I did, I would just crush your chest and have done with it. Do you understand?
    • Also in Way of Kings, Sadeas notes that this is why he never believed Dalinar was behind the assassination attempts on Elhokar's life. Not only did Dalinar have hundreds of opportunities to kill him, but the Alethi elite would have lauded him for the act. When you're a Proud Warrior Race that has degenerated into Blood Knights, that kind of thing is expected.
    • In the second book, Words of Radiance, the phrase is never actually spoken, but Vathah is shocked when he realizes that the naive little noblegirl he's been tricked into following actually possesses one of the deadliest weapons on the planet, and thus could have killed him and all his men with absolutely zero difficulty at any time.
      Vathah: Stormfather! That night, when you pled with us, you could have killed us every one, and the bandits too. You could have done it on your own—
  • In Sojourn by R.A. Salvatore, in his early days on the surface Drizzt Do'Urden meets a peasant boy with a long knife who's naturally rather afraid of him. Having not learned Common yet, Drizzt snatches the knife and juggles it for a bit with his scimitars before handing it back handle-first. In his culture it's basically the gestural version of this trope. The peasant somewhat understandably freaks the hell out and runs away screaming about a "Drizzit".
  • Not killing, per se, but several characters in The Chronicles of Amber dismiss Benedict as a candidate for all the plots and subterfuge that surround the fight over who gets to rule Amber. They reason that Benedict is such a military genius that if he wanted the throne, nobody could stop him from simply walking in with an army and taking it.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Said by Aragorn when he first meets the hobbits at Bree, and Sam brings up the possibility that "Strider" is an imposter who killed the real Strider and is one of Sauron's agents. Aragorn admits that could be true, but then adds that if he had killed the real Strider, then four hobbits would certainly be no match for him, and he would probably have just killed the hobbits immediately and taken the Ring, not wasted all this time talking with them.
  • A variant is used in Ancillary Mercy when the protagonists discuss why the Raadch is currently embroiled in a civil war, and the subject is raised whether or not the Presger might have caused it to weaken humanity. Translator Zeiat (an Artificial Human created by the Presger to serve as an ambassador) says this is very unlikely, because if the Presger wanted to destroy humanity they'd do it in a much more direct, artistic and entertaining fashion than inciting a civil war behind the scenes (for reference, a Presger handgun is capable of destroying human starships with a single shot. Zeiat is most likely not lying).
  • X-Wing: Wraith Squadron: Wedge Antilles deliberately forms the Wraiths, a special operations unit, as a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits out of talented flight officers whose careers are about to flame out for one reason or another. Voort "Piggy" saBinring, for example, faces charges of assaulting a superior officer. Piggy maintains that the officer in question was racist and attacked him, he blocked the blow, and the officer falsely accused him. To support this, Piggy points out that, as he's Gamorrean, nobody he has ever struck (in legal sparring matches) has ever been able to speak coherently in less than an hour, whereas the charges were filed only half an hour after the purported assault.
  • In Shadow of the Conqueror, Daylen does this to Ahrek and Lyrah, as they're both Hero Antagonists and he wants nothing more than to avoid seriously harming them, even though he has the capability.
    Daylen: "I'd never kill you, Lyrah, but stop now before I injure you so much that it'll take a fall for you to heal with your single bond.
  • Malus Darkblade: Rogue Dalvar proves to Malus that he can be trusted (as much as it's possible among dark evles), at least for the time being, by luring him to a secluded place, ambushing him and putting a dagger to his throat and then deliberately taking it away. It was a lethally dangerous trick - Malus routinely skinned people alive for much less - but it worked.
  • The Scholomance: When Orion (incorrectly) accuses El of using The Dark Side, she impulsively gives the mana within his body just enough of a tug to show how easily she could rip it out and drain him dry without him able to do a thing to stop her, then reminds him that they had already gone alone on a dangerous errand that would have been the perfect cover story. Unsurprisingly, this convinces him that she is a secret maleficer, until she conclusively proves otherwise later.
  • In the The Godfather novel, this is the implication behind the horse head "warning". Woltz talks big game and brags about being personal friends with the president, which makes him "untouchable". The fact that the Don's men managed to sneak into his house, kill his horse, and put the head on his bed without him ever noticing shows that if Corleone wanted to kill him, he could easily do it without any resistance.
  • Variation in the Louise Glück poem "Circe's Power", where the titular sorceress accepts Odysseus's departure. If she really wanted to keep him around, his agency be damned, she could have done so magically.
    If I wanted only to hold you
    I could hold you prisoner."
  • In The Moon and the Sun, Marie-Josèphe is afraid the captured sea monster will hurt her, until she drags her into the fountain and then lets her climb out unharmed. Marie-Josèphe thinks that if the monster wanted to kill her, she would have done so right away.
  • Safehold: When Ahbraim Zhevons (one of Merlin's alter egos) pays a midnight visit to King Gorjah in A Mighty Fortress, he opens the conversation with this trope:
    If I'd only wanted to cut your throat, I wouldn't have bothered to wake you up first.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The first season of Andromeda features a variant: Hunt is trying to recruit a politician, and the man is later found dead while locked in a room with Tyr, with the murder weapon found to be keyed to Tyr's DNA. Tyr claims that he couldn't have killed the politician, because if he had, he knows enough ways to do it that no one would be able to tell. He then goes on to mention that he has "...some experience" in this, and lists three or four untraceable methods of assassination before Dylan cuts him off.
  • Angel:
    • In "Forgiving", this is how Angel convinces Wesley that he's not Angelus. He does the same thing in "Power Play", causing fellow vampire Spike to retort, "One of us already is."
    • In "Underneath", Lindsey thinks Angel has turned up to kill him and says "Make it quick" Angel retorts, "If I was gonna kill you, it wouldn't be quick."
  • Subverted in Attila. Flavius Aetius is insulted by prison guard Petronius who clearly expects to be killed when Aetius is restored to power, but gets this trope instead. However Aetius is setting Petronius up by ordering him to assassinate the Emperor, then killing Petronius just before this happens to earn the Emperor's gratitude for 'saving' him.
  • Babylon 5:
    • The first appearance of G'Kar's aide Na'Toth features this, when he accuses her of being an assassin sent to kill him.
    • In Season 3, Neroon cites this trope as a reason he won't kill Marcus after sending him to the infirmary.
    • Jason Ironheart says this to Sinclair in "Mind War"; if he wanted to kill someone, he could completely disintegrate that person with just a thought. This is not hyperbole; later, he actually does do this to Kelsey.
  • On an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, Granny has taken up a feud against the Drysdales. At one point she shoots Mr. Drysdale's hat off, leading to this exchange:
    Mr. Drysdale: She shot at me!
    Jed: Naw, she shot at your hat. If Granny ever starts takin' aim at you, you'll be castin' a polka-dot shadow.
  • Blake's 7. In "Moloch", a soldier does some Evil Gloating about torturing Avon, who points out that he'd be doing that already if his motives where purely sadistic, which means he needs information instead.
  • On The Bold and the Beautiful, a private investigator is offering several scenarios as to who shot a hated character. One of the suspects scoffs when the attention is focused on him, stating that he's an excellent marksman and had he been the one to shoot the guy, he'd be dead, not just simply wounded.
  • In Breaking Bad, after Walt kills a pair of drug dealers working for Gus, a meeting is arranged out in the desert to talk things out. After driving out, Walt asks the other party for some guarantees of his safety. "I can guarantee, that I can shoot you where you are."
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Checkpoint", Glory goes to Buffy's house to demand she give her the Key. While Glory goes on, Buffy subtly takes a fireplace poker and prepares to attack Glory with it, only to have Glory take it from her before she can even swing.
    Glory: Buffy, if I were here to fight, you could tell by the being dead already. So play nice, little girl.
  • In the season three finale of Burn Notice an FBI agent interrogates Michael's mother, claiming, "Your son shot at me. He tried to kill me!" to which Maddie disdainfully responds, "If Michael wanted to kill you, you'd be dead."
  • From the Castle episode "Linchpin":
    Castle: I thought you were the bad guy?
    Gage: If I were the bad guy, you'd be dead by now.
  • Doctor Who
    • In "The Woman Who Fell to Earth", the Doctor and several humans are trapped in the train carriage with the writhing data coil.
      The Doctor: All of you, stay very...still.
      Karl: It's going to kill us!
      The Doctor: It could have done that already.
    • In "Rosa", when the title character asks Ryan, who's been following her, if he's a spy for either the police or the FBI, he points out that if he was, he wouldn't be so terrible at keeping himself hidden, and wouldn't be British. He also doubts that the 1950s FBI have black informants on their payroll anyway.
  • In Elementary, after Sherlock realised that his father, Morland Holmes, had survived an assassination attempt recently, he confronted his father about it; believing that Morland hadn't told him about it because he thought Sherlock was behind the attempt, Sherlock observes that his father can be sure he didn't do it because Morland is still alive.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • When Daario infiltrates her army and appears in her bathing tent, Daenerys' first question is why he didn't kill her straight off if that was his purpose.
    • Having survived a recent assassination attempt by a Kingsguard knight, Tyrion refuses to open the door for Queen Cersei and her Kingsguard bodyguards. Cersei points out that if she wanted to kill Tyrion, she wouldn't let a wooden door stop her.
    • After the Wildlings expose Jon Snow, his Wildling lover Ygritte shoots him with three arrows, but neither is fatal, and he escapes. She spends her next scenes obsessively crafting more arrows and making increasingly bloodthirsty proclamations, until her friend Tormund tells her to cut the crap, because if a markswoman like her failed to score a kill thrice, then her heart clearly wasn't in it and despite everything she still loves Jon. He's correct.
    • During his trial Tyrion says if he was guilty he would have planned to have a scapegoat handy, not be standing there with the murder weapon in hand stupidly.
    • Arya does this to Sansa late in the seventh season. She muses on how she'd just have to take Sansa's face - then flips the dagger around and hands it to her.
  • Kaamelott: When Merlin complains to Elias that he thinks he'd cursed him with gingivitis, Elias snarks that when he bothers casting a curse on someone, it isn't to give a mere gingivitis.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: When accused of ordering a hit on the now comatose man who was sleeping with his wife, the extremely wealthy husband not only tells Detectives Munch and Fin that he doesn't care, but, "If I wanted Victor Coe dead, he'd be in his grave by now."
  • In the MacGyver episode "GX-1", Mac and Nikki are trying to reach and destroy a crashed experimental spy plane before the Soviets can get to it, said Soviets being backed by an elderly psychic. At one point while Mac and Nikki are planning their next move, the psychic shows up at their campsite. He states he wants to defect and assures them he means no harm by pointing out that if he did, he would have revealed their location to the Soviet troops.
  • Madam Secretary: After becoming doubtful that the Russians were behind the cyberattack on Air Force One at the start of season 2, Elizabeth asks Chinese Foreign Minister Chen Ming if China did it. Chen scoffs, and then explains that China has no need to resort to such measures because eventually they'll own enough of the US sovereign debt to repossess America.
  • In The Mentalist episode "Redline", a very rich guy, when asked if he killed the victim of the week, makes the point that with his resources, if he'd been responsible for her death, they wouldn't have found the body; she'd have just disappeared.
  • The Orville: In "Domino", the Planetary Union uses a superweapon to compel the surrender of the Kaylon. Captain Mercer and Admiral Halsey both tell the paranoid Kaylon Primary flat-out that if the Union actually wanted the utter destruction of the Kaylon rather than just to end the war, they could have perfectly well fired the weapon in orbit of Kaylon Prime and killed them all.
  • Person of Interest. In "Endgame", while his men have Yogorov at gunpoint Elias says, "If I wanted you dead, I'd be a little more creative than this." Later Elias admits to Detective Carter that he did want Yogorov dead, but he's decided to let Carter deal with him.
  • In The Punisher David Lieberman does a nonverbal version of this. After Frank Castle keeps him captive and tied to a chair for some time David manages to stab him with a tranquilizer. When Frank wakes to find himself alive and unrestrained he's finally willing to believe what David has been telling him the whole time, that they have mutual enemies and he wants to team up to take them down.
    Frank: Why didn't you kill me?
    David: Jesus Christ, are you serious?
  • Said almost word for word by Kurt in The River. Played with in that Kurt is not really a villain and even helps save Lincoln in the end.
  • Invoked in The Rookie: Feds when the team capture a small terrorist group seeking to abduct Congressman Damien Roberts. Earlier Roberts had nearly been killed by a car bomb, but when the team analyse the remaining bomb fragments it's revealed that the bomb was a very amateur piece of work. Since one of the terrorists has past military experience, the team conclude that they can't be responsible for the bomb because they have the resources and connections to have done a more professional job of it.
  • In an episode of the 70's show Search, the leader of a criminal group replied to the suggestion that they'd committed (and botched) certain murders by having a guard place two or three pistol shots within a few centimeters of his leader's head. It demonstrated not only the skills of his men — they wouldn't have botched the killings — but his degree of trust in their loyalty. He didn't flinch at all as the shots were fired.
  • From the Sherlock episode, "The Blind Banker":
    Shan: Three times we tried to kill you and your companion, Mr. Holmes. What does it tell you when an assassin cannot shoot straight? It tells you that they're not really trying. If we wanted to kill you, Mr. Holmes, we would have done it by now.
  • Subverted in the short-lived Australian cop show Skirts. The criminal boyfriend of a female police officer is receiving death threats. Her superior says that if they meant to kill him, they wouldn't warn him first, but they try to kill him anyway.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "The Vengeance Factor", a much smaller and technologically inferior ship repeatedly and ineffectually attacks the Enterprise. Picard finally orders a single phaser attack to take down their shields and convince them to start talking. The other captain's first signal is an accusation that the Enterprise is there to destroy them; Picard makes the obvious rebuttal.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Garak is told to be more serious when he lists Kira as a suspect in blowing up his shop. A rather notable example of the trope, as Kira is a proudly self-admitted terrorist, and her extremely high degree of skill and experience in killing Cardassians with improvised explosive devices is about as well-known as Carlos Hathcock's Improbable Aiming Skills.
    Garak: I am serious; I don't think she likes me.
    Odo: She doesn't, but if she wanted you dead, you would be.
    Garak: You do have a point.
  • Strike Back. When the team goes to extract a prisoner:
    Man: How do I know you're not here to kill me?
    Coltrane: Because you're still alive.
  • Supernatural, the demon Meg and her fellow Lucifer loyalists capture Sam and Dean. She threatens to kill them, starting with Dean, but Soulless Sam, more clear-headed than Dean, realizes that Meg hasn't killed them already because she needs them to find out where Crowley is.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Cameron to John:
    Cameron: If I was going to try to kill you again, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
  • In the Season 4 opener of The Unit, Jonas Blane uses this to convince the President-Elect of the United States that he's here to help.
  • Zorro features an episode where a group of people plan to assassinate the corrupt Alcalde. When the Alcalde accuses Zorro of being in on the plot, Zorro gives the expected retort.


    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible: David twice gets close enough to Saul to kill him, but stays his hand, believing that he should not lay a hostile hand on "the Lord's anointed". The first time, he cuts off a part of Saul's robe, while the second time, he steals Saul's water jug and spear. The message, although not explicitly said, is clear. It's Older Than Feudalism, ladies and gentlemen! And Saul doesn't get the message. Too Dumb to Live much?

    Pro Wrestling 
  • During an episode of Monday Night Raw, Zack Ryder suspected that the guest host had put a hit on him and paid one of the WWE superstars to attack Ryder. He eventually started questioning other wrestlers, and ran across Randy Orton. Orton told him, in an eerily calm manner, "Zack, if I wanted to take you out, we wouldn't be having this conversation."

    Puppet Shows 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Feng Shui, this is the quote for the Ninja template.
  • Done in spirit, minus the Stock Phrase, in the Forgotten Realms setting. Tempus, the baddest War God in the setting, could explicitly stomp his main rival Garagos flat if he wanted. He's not interested because that would entail absorbing Garagos' portfolio, savage bloodlust, into his own, and Tempus only finds war meaningful when there is peace to follow it.

    Video Games 
  • Battle for Wesnoth: A variation happens in Under the Burning Suns. Melusand tells the elves that if she and the mermen are Yechnagoth's agents who want to capture the elves, they would have captured them already. Instead Melusand tells the elves everything about Yechnagoth and let the elves choose what to do.
  • Thief: Deadly Shadows has this bit of convo:
    Garrett: I suppose if you were Gamall, you would have tried to kill me just now.
    Artemus: No, I would have succeeded.
  • Ripper: Used by Quinlan late in the story after another of his contacts blew up in front of him, making him look like a suspect.
  • Deus Ex:
    JC Denton: If I'm gonna kill you, you're already dead.
  • In The Godfather 2, the Mangano consigliore threatens you with this.
  • At least three NPCs say this in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, though the validity of their claims is dubious at best.
  • In Dishonored, you have the option to do this when you go against Daud. You can simply steal his key without him ever knowing you were there. He seems to have a break down at realizing how close you were to kill him.
  • A variation is used in Heroes of Might and Magic IV, when Gauldoth Half-Dead proposes an alliance between his nation, Nekross, and Great Arcan, led by Emilia Nighthaven. To secure the alliance, he sends Emilia a set of plans drawn up by one of his strategists, detailing all the defensive flaws in Great Arcan's military deployment, the message being, "If I wanted to, I could just conquer your nation, but an alliance suits my purposes better."
  • Early in Jak II: Renegade, the titular character is sent to save an overtly paranoid Krimzon Guard worker named Vin from the Metal Heads when Praxis decides he is of no use. Vin's first reaction upon seeing Jak and Daxter is to shoot mindlessly towards their direction. Jak makes it clear that he's not there to kill Vin, and if he was, he wouldn't be talking. This causes Vin to stop shooting, and become a virtual ally for the Underground for the remainder of the game and the next, even after the Metal Heads kill him.
  • In Undertale, during a dinner with Sans in the Pacifist route he will comment that, if he hadn't promised Toriel to look out for any humans who left the ruins, then "You would be dead where you stand". He plays it off as a joke immediately afterwards, but finally decides to break his promise in the Genocide route after you've already killed practically every other monster.
  • The Generals Challenges in Command & Conquer: Generals have a few of these. While the trope isn't mentioned, the intent is obvious.
    • Superweapon General Alexis Alexander starts her challenge firing a Particle Cannon beam to surround your command center without actually destroying it. She follows soon with flying a few Comanche helicopters into your base without actually shooting at your structures or Worker Units. Laser General "Pinpoint" Townes will do something similar with his Particle Cannon.
    • Air Force General Malcolm Granger will fly a dozen of King Raptors jet fighters over your command center.
    • Nuke General Tsing Shi Tao will drop a tactical nuclear missile right outside your base.

    Web Animation 
  • Hazbin Hotel: After Vaggie threatens Alastor and accuses him of coming to the hotel to cause trouble, Alastor makes this, and his own power level, frighteningly clear:
    Alastor: [chuckles] Dear, if I wanted to hurt anyone here... [cue Nightmare Face] I would have done so already...

    Web Comics 
  • Humorous invocation in this Backward Compatible webcomic, as two reviewers try for the same assignment.
  • A more benevolent variation appears in this Schlock Mercenary strip.
  • About to be sent on another suicidal quest by shoddy transportation in 8-Bit Theater, Black Mage accuses Sarda of wanting to kill the Light Warriors. Sarda's response is this trope. And of course he does want them dead...he just wants them to at their peak to show how insignificant they are to him.
  • A friendly-on-friendly version in Terra page 92. Non-Action Guy Rick MacFarlane has Grey O'Shea at gunpoint. Grey, while trying to prove he's on Rick's side, infers that he's never actually had to point his gun at anyone before, then says a version of the phrase before relieving Rick of the weapon almost effortlessly. The next page he hands the gun back handle-first.
  • Girl Genius gives us a third person version:
    Monk: Nothing really deadly seems to have escaped.
    Zeetha: How can you be so sure?
    Monk: We're not dead.
  • In Questionable Content, when Spookybot suddenly appears and offers to fix Bubbles's memories, Faye is suspicious. Bubbles points out that with the powers Spookybot has displayed, if they intended her harm they'd have already done so. Spookybot, being a troll, immediately says "Unless we got particular pleasure out of fooling you into agreeing to it first."
  • In the Irregular Webcomic! Mythbusters theme, this is Adam's logic as to why a blatant vampire isn't a vampire; because it he was, they'd be dead already. In The Rant, DMM says that there are so many things that this phrase applies to, it's quite surprising we're not dead already.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog: Tails is kidnapped in one episode where Robotnik had nothing to do with it. Robotnik said that, if he had kidnapped Tails, he'd be torturing him.
  • Batman Beyond: An assassin assures Batman a stray shot to get his attention was just that, for this reason.
    Lotor: If my intention were to kill you, you'd dead already.
  • Hercules: The Animated Series has Medusa delivering a variation of this line to Hercules.
    Medusa: If I wanted you stone, you'd be stone, all right?
  • The Legend of Vox Machina: When Raishan is introducing herself to Vox Machina as an ally, she assures them they can trust her because if she wanted to kill them, they'd have been dead as soon as they stepped in the room.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: In a flashback from "Promise", Shadow Weaver tells a young Catra that she would have gotten rid of her long ago if it weren't for the fact that Adora, her favorite student, likes her. This, among other such scenes, makes it clear that Shadow Weaver saw Catra as little more than Adora's ill-behaved pet.
  • The Simpsons: In "Black Widower", Sideshow Bob offers one to Bart while at the Simpson household:
    Sideshow Bob: Bart, if I'd wanted to kill you, I'd have choked you like a chicken the moment I walked through that door... [everyone gasps] but then, what kind of guest would I have been? [laughs]
  • Teen Titans (2003): After Bumblebee, at Brother Blood's orders, battles Cyborg, she tries to convince Cyborg she's The Mole: "If I was fighting for real, you'd be spare parts by now."
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: In a flashback, Lotor discovers Alteans who survived the destruction of Altea. He emits the line:

    Real Life 
  • Charles Manson. "Believe me, if I started murdering people, there'd be none of you left."
  • Porter Rockwell, the Mormon gunfighter dubbed "the Prophet's bodyguard", was accused of shooting at Lilburn Boggs, governor of Missouri who issued the famous "Extermination Order". His response? "I never shot at anything in my life. I either shot it or I didn't shoot." He then got permission to hold a demonstration of his shooting skills outside the courthouse. By the time it was over, the jury was convinced beyond reasonable doubt that he was not guilty.
  • There was an Iraqi army officer who was interviewed after the 2003 invasion of Iraq who reported that when he was leading his men in the field, an American attack jet appeared and made a mock attack run at them, diving at them and then pulling up to fly in a wide lazy circle. The Iraqi officer decided that the American pilot was giving them their one chance to surrender unharmed, especially considering his experience from Desert Storm.
  • A famous Australian clip from 60 Minutes had a reporter interviewing some freedom fighters in another country. The gun wasn't loaded, but it sent a clear message that they could have killed him at anytime and weren't hesitating to kill.
    Reporter: How easy would it be to kill me?
    Man: Like this. [takes out a gun and puts it to his head and pulls the trigger]
  • Several terrorist groups (such as the IRA and ETA) sent bomb warnings to the police: the buildings would be evacuated, the bomb (sometimes) dismantled, and nobody died. We could have killed today. Sometimes it didn't work. It's worth noting that this approach to terror isn't only useful for intimidation; it also serves to prevent the backlash that would result from simply bombing their targets.
  • A famous bit of correspondence from Josip Broz Tito to Josef Stalin chastised the latter for sending assassins, and warned that...
    Tito: If you don't stop sending killers, I'll send a very fast working one to Moscow and I certainly won't have to send another.
  • Opposing military aircraft use a variant during peacetime confrontations. One side attempts to obtain and hold radar lock on the other - whoever succeeds in holding lock "wins." Overly aggressive maneuvers of this type have resulted in mid-air collisions.
    • The only nation ever to achieve missile lock on the SR-71 is the Kingdom of Sweden. A Saab Viggen pilot (with the help of ground-based radar relaying data to his plane) managed to achieve missile lock on the world's fastest aircraft. The crew of the Blackbird in question sent him a congratulatory letter and framed-and-signed certificate in recognition of his achievement.
    • The Swedes also did this at sea, with one of their little diesel-electric submarines sneaking into a carrier battle group during a NATO exercise and "sinking" the USS Ronald Reagan, then sneaking out again. They took pictures through the sub's periscope from torpedo range as proof. This has happened several times with countries with smaller navies, including Canada, Israel, and Germany, demonstrating how a Weak, but Skilled opponent can do some serious damage to a larger military.
  • In 1970, Audie Murphy, a decorated US Army veteran of the Italian campaign turned actor, was on trial for attempted murder after getting into a fistfight with a massive, six-foot-three man who trained guard dogs for a living. In the course of the trial, it was discovered that the dog-trainer had abused a German Shepherd belonging to a female friend of Murphy, then groped and verbally abused the friend when she objected. This trope was Murphy's defense, and at that point the entire free world knew that it wasn't a bluff. Once he was was acquitted, several jury members shook his hand.
  • In 1962, Mossad needed to recruit the Nazi fugitive Otto Skorzeny and sent two agents disguised as a German couple to find him in Spain. When Skorzeny invited them to his house, he pulled a gun on the two saying "I know who you are, and I know why you're here. You are Mossad and you are here to kill me." The man answered "You are half right. We are from Mossad, but if we had come to kill you, you would have been dead weeks ago." When Skorzeny said that he might as well kill them now, the female agent said that if he killed them, the next agents they would send would not bother talking with him first. Skorzeny ended up becoming a Mossad agent on condition that his name would be removed from Simon Wiesenthal's Nazi-hunting list.
  • During World War II, flamethrower tanks (particularly the British Crocodile) invoked this by spraying jets of un-ignited fuel into bunkers and trenches, making it clear to the defenders that if they wanted to, they could have killed them. This often caused the terrified defenders to surrender immediately or flee rather than risk being burnt alive.


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    Comic Books 
  • Near the end of the first volume of Runaways, the team realise that one of them is a mole for the Pride but have no idea who. When Nico comes up, Alex points out that she's one of their most powerful members and could have hurt them ages ago if she wanted to.
  • Amanda Waller invokes this in Suicide Squad. After a Time Skip where the group has been disbanded for a year, Deadshot kicks down her door, gun in hand, announcing that he's been hired to kill her. Amanda calmly points out that if he wanted her dead he'd have shot her already, asks how much he's being paid, and offers to match it plus a dollar. Deadshot, who's always got on surprisingly well with Amanda, immediately accepts.

    Fan Works 
  • In One Tin Pegasus, after a major fire destroys a good part of Lightning Dust's training camp, a letter surfaces, allegedly from Adagio, telling the watch to not help put out the fire.
    Adagio: You know that I’d never-
    Lightning: Come on Adagio. If you were going to stab me in the back, I’d trust you to have a much better plan than this!
    Adagio: Thank you for your confidence in my devious nature.
  • In Lightning Only Strikes Once, Clarke convinces Bellamy that the Grounders aren't there to kill the 100 because the kids would already be dead if that was the case.
  • In Chapter 8 of Harry Potter And The Vampires Assistant, Harry Potter is turned into a vampire, and later hears from the vampire who turned him that the vampire coven wants him dead instead of walking around as a vampire. The news provokes Harry to flee from his sire, and he gets trapped in a river when he tries to cross it. After his sire fishes him out, Harry reasons that his sire is defying the orders of the coven because it would have been easier to leave Harry trapped in the river and let the sunlight finish him off.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Babylon A.D.: Toorop gets the drop on a mercenary who's been sent to fetch him. Cue Bilingual Dialogue in Russian, then Toorop saying in English, "No shit! If you wanted me dead, you'd have blown up the building!"
  • Anthony Perkins uses this line of reasoning in The Black Hole. It actually holds true... for a while.
  • In Braveheart Stephen and William Wallace agree that if Robert The Bruce had wanted to kill Wallace "He'd have done it at Falkirk".
  • Said of the "Snake King" in Courageous. "If he wanted you dead, he'd have killed you by now."
  • In the film version of The Hunger Games, President Snow asks Seneca Crane how he could have given Katniss such a high score after Katniss shot an arrow at Seneca's head. Seneca responds that Katniss wasn't shooting at his head, she was shooting at an apple that happened to be near his head. While the stock phrase is never explicitly said, it's pretty clear Seneca realizes that if Katniss had been shooting at his head, she wouldn't have missed.
  • I Am Mother. When Woman refuses an injection from Mother, assuming she's the same as the Killer Robots she's met before, Mother points out that all she has to do to kill Woman is leave the room and wait for her to die of infection and blood loss. However Mother is implied to have killed Woman at the end of the movie, so this was is merely a case of Can't Kill You, Still Need You.
  • The Hunt for Red October - Sam Neill's first mate says this to one of the panicked crew after the sub narrowly avoids destruction by a torpedo launched by the Russian Navy. Subversion: The Navy really was trying to sink the submarine.
  • The inversion appeared in The Postman. The heroine grabs an unloaded rifle and points it at one of the enemy mooks, ordering him to put his hands up. The mook pauses and says, "No. If you had a bullet, you'd have shot me."
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark: This is actually more of a subversion, because the Hovitos do in fact know that they are there, it's just that they are following the advice of evil Adventurer Archaeologist Rene Belloq, and waiting for Dr. Jones to retrieve their sacred idol from the Death Course protecting it before ambushing him.
    Satipo: The Hovitos are near. The poison is still fresh, three days. They're following us.
    Barranca: If they knew we were here, they would've killed us already.
  • Captain Von Trapp says something similar to Rolfe in The Sound of Music when Rolfe threatens to shoot him, but in this case he's doing it to convince Rolfe that Rolfe doesn't have it in him to kill someone and should just hand over the gun. It works in as far as Rolfe doesn't shoot him, but it doesn't stop Rolfe from raising the alarm.
  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, John Connor says something to this effect to the T-800 Model 101 after the Terminator saves John from being flattened by the T-1000 driving a big rig truck. John figures that the T-800 isn't there to kill him because, if he was, he would have just let John die.
  • In Transformers, Sam deduces that Bumblebee "Doesn't wanna hurt us. He'd have done that already".

  • In the Swedish spy-novel "Coq Rouge" the hero proves that he isn't an assassin out to assassinate the Palestinian big-shot by disarming his body-guards, grabbing a machine-gun, pointing it at the big-shot... and turning over the weapon. Subverted when the big-shot then calmly points out that he knew this was going to happen and that the weapons weren't loaded.
  • In Animorphs, Marco is first to point out that he believes that Visser One isn't setting a trap because, if she wanted to capture him, it'd be far simpler to do so directly than setting a trap.
    • When the team investigates Yeerks tampering with food, one of them suggests that they want to poison people. Ax disagrees, since if the Yeerks wanted to kill a lot of humans, they would use Dracon beams to set the atmosphere on fire.
      [Long pause]
      Marco: Well, that's comforting.
  • Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince tells Draco that if he was going to kill him then he would have done it already, instead of pleasantly chatting about how easy it would be.
  • During the volume 2 climax of My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Catarina states that Raphael never had any intention of killing her despite his claims to the contrary. They were alone when he cast that sleep spell on her and it would have been far easier for him to just kill her on the spot.
  • Rose in Slave Trade by Susan Wright: "I guess that means no one's awake or they would have killed us already."
  • In Yendi, after Vlad survives three assassination attempts from a rival Jhereg, he realizes that the only possible way this could have happened is if the guy wasn't seriously trying to kill him. The entire conflict turns out to be part of a complicated scheme that only tangentially involves Vlad.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel:
    • Episode "Peace Out":
      Wesley: If you really believed that, you'd have killed us already.
    • In another episode, the title character proves that he haven't reverted to his Angelus self by... effortless disarming his friend, going for the jugular and not eating him.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, after Sheldon accuses Leonard of being a violent sociopath, he claims that he's not worried for his personal safety because "I imagine that if you were going to kill me, you would have done it years ago."
  • In the fourth season of Breaking Bad, Walt is grabbed, tied up, blindfolded, and driven out into the middle of the desert by Gus Fring, who warns him to stay away from the meth lab and from Jesse. Because Gus is only warning and threatening him, Walt correctly deduces that Gus can't kill him:
    Stay away from Pinkman... or else you'll do... what? Kill me? If you could kill me, I'd already be dead. But you can't. You can't kill me because Jesse wouldn't cook for you if you did.
  • A variant on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: after Joyce's death Xander, obviously looking for someone to blame, suggests that Big Bad Glory may have murdered her and only made it look like a random brain aneurysm. Willow then points out that Glory had basically pulled this trope as a threat before—if she had killed Joyce, she would want them to know that it was her.
  • In the Gotham episode "Mandatory Brunch Meeting," Jerome Valeska uses Jeremiah as a human shield and claims that if anyone comes any closer, he'll "splatter him." Gordon contradicts this by arguing that if he'd wanted him dead, he'd have done it already, which prompts Jerome to let go of Jeremiah and run.
  • In one episode of The Mentalist, Jane is taken captive. Her first act is to taunt him by standing there pointing a gun at him, but after a few moments, he points out that it's clear she doesn't intend to kill him just then, because "if you were gonna kill me, you would've already".
  • Narcos: In season 4, when Mexican drug kingpin Felix Gallardo realizes that he can expand his cartel's activities to transporting cocaine for the Colombians, he approaches the Cali Cartel first because of their more business-like reputation than the Medellin cartel, whose leader Pablo Escobar is known for his Hair-Trigger Temper. However, Felix is kidnapped by Escobar's sicarios, who threatens to have him killed as this move presents an existenial threat to Escobar's dominance of the cocaine market. Felix counters that he would have already had him killed if that was his intention, and he's right: it speaks to the importance of the Mexican corridor for Escobar's empire that instead he arranges an identical deal as the one offered to Cali.
  • In the Psych episode "Shawn Takes a Shot in the Dark," Shawn deduces that the person who shot and kidnapped him is an ex-military sniper capable of killing a man from multiple football fields away—and yet Shawn, who had been standing no more than three feet away from the guy, ended up with Just a Flesh Wound. Shawn realizes that this guy at least really doesn't want to have to kill him and is able to use that fact to play on his sympathies later.
  • In Smallville Lex Luthor's fiance tried to kill him by leaving him alone on a plane without a pilot. When Lex survives and confronts her, she tries to pin the murder attempt on his father Lionel. Lex tells her that "if my father wanted me dead, he wouldn't have failed."
  • Season four of Supernatural: Shortly after Dean is pulled out of Hell, a demon threatens to send him back. Dean coolly replies, "No, you won't. Because if you could, you'd have done it already."
    • In Season 13, with Castiel trapped in The Big Empty (also the name of the episode), he encounters the Cosmic Entity, taking the form Castiel, who can't sleep while the real Castiel is awake.
    Castiel: Send me back to Earth.
    Cosmic Entity: Or...I throw you so deep into the Empty that you can't bother me anymore, hmm?
    Castiel: Except you know that won't work, or you would've done it already.
  • Season one of The Wire: When Omar and Brandon are parleying with McNulty and Kima at the cemetery, Omar takes note of McNulty's service weapon as they approach and tells him, "If you was gonna use that, you'd have been done using it by now." McNulty, acknowledging the point (and noting that Omar and Brandon are both unarmed and their van is empty), holsters his gun.
  • Inverted on General Hospital, when one character threatens another. The latter refuses to be intimidated, correctly deducing that the woman wants something from her, stating that "if you wanted me dead, I wouldn't be here right now"
  • Also inverted on All My Children. Having been wrongly accused of murder, Janet Greene manages to get the victim's husband to admit that he doesn't believe that she's guilty: "We both know that if you really thought I had killed your wife, I wouldn't be standing here right now."

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible: Manoah and his wife meet an angel, and Manoah says afterwards that they'll both die since they've "seen the face of God." His wife points out that the angel predicted that she would give birth to a son and advised them to make a sacrifice that the Lord accepted, so they're probably safe.

  • Spoken nearly word for word by Morgan Webb's character Morgaen in Acquisitions Incorporated when she introduces herself to the party by nailing Binwin with a headshot from across a market, directly into his armor.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the prologue story to one edition of Mage: The Ascension, the mage Mercedes finds out that her lover Gericault is one of the Nephandi (an Eldritch Abomination worshiping cult of mages). Mercedes attacks him and knocks him to the ground, where they have the following exchange:
    Gericault: Let me up.
    Mercedes: I'm going to kill you.
    Gericault: You are a practical woman, Mercy, and this is not a dime novel. If you were going to kill me, you would have done so five seconds ago. Let me up.

    Video Games 
  • In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, there is an inversion in the second case. The only son of the Yakuza is accused of shooting a man in the head. His mother knows he is innocent (of this crime at least), because he couldn't shoot the broad side of a barn.
  • in Fallout 3, the Player can have a random encounter with "Mel", a highwayman who tries to stick you up with a sawed-off shotgun (which isn't even loaded). The Intelligence-tied response basically calls him out on it, stating that a real raider would have just killed and looted.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots: When Big Boss and Snake meet again during the ending, Snake quickly draws his gun at him and assumes that he's back to settle the score. After a few tense moments of holding one another at gunpoint, Big Boss drops his gun, easily overpowers Snake, and gives him a combination Cooldown Hug/Final First Hug, softly reassuring his last living son that he didn't come all this way to pick a fight.

    Web Comics 
  • Inverted in Schlock Mercenary here.
    Doctor Bunnigus: What makes you think we aren't the source of the infection?
    Mako: I'm still alive. Your dossier suggests that you're all too competent for that.
    Bunny: [to Schlock] Please tell me our perimeter sensors recorded that.
    Schlock: I'm gonna ask Ennesby to mix it into a song for us.

    Web Original 
  • The Highway Virus Series: DNA Oil
    "They would have killed us already, if they were going to," the female said, although her voice wavered.
  • This advice for what to do when making first contact with aliens makes the point that, since there is almost no chance that two random species would just happen to be at similar levels of technology, and they are the ones with interstellar flight, if the alien hasn't killed you already it probably isn't hostile.
  • When Lemuel is wounded in Pantheocide, Michael tells him in chapter 35 that humans didn't do it because "If humans wanted to kill you, you wouldn't just be dead, your body parts would be strewn over half the Eternal City."

    Web Videos 
  • Subverted in the lonelygirl15 episode "Prom: It's To Die For - Part 4", when Jonas points a gun at Edward Salinas and demands that he hand over the camera:
    Jonas: I'm not kidding.
    Salinas: I think you are. If there were any bullets in that gun, we'd all be dead by now, but there aren't, are there?
    [Jonas pistol whips Salinas and runs off with the camera]
  • CinemaSins: Jeremy and Chris sometimes call characters' bluffs when this trope comes up..
    Jeremy: Then do it already!

    Western Animation 
  • Done by the hero in Justice League Unlimited during the climax of the Justice League/Cadmus conflict that drove the first two seasons. Cadmus, a shadowy government organization dedicated to combating the League if they ever turn against the government, has its former headquarters destroyed by orbital bombardment from the League's space station mere hours after a dramatic rescue where Superman and the Huntress saved the Question during torturous interrogation. However, the headquarters had been abandoned immediately after the conflict and all the orbital attack did was destroy what is now an abandoned warehouse. Batman points out to Amanda Waller, the head of Cadmus, that the League has had the organization under surveillance for months, of course they saw them dismantle and move the offices. When Waller then claims that it was a warning shot, Batman, by now getting fed up with the conversations tells her "Don't be dense." If the League had wanted to attack Cadmus they would have attacked Cadmus, and they never did; Lex Luthor had hacked their satellite and fired the weapon himself. Superman, on the other hand, was tempted to attack Cadmus.
  • This also happens with Bolin in The Legend of Korra when he creates a moat of lava around a group of refugees from Earth Empire camps. When one of the refugees questions whether they should trust him given Bolin's Earth Empire uniform, their leader points out this trope, that they were not just buried in a river of lava, so he's not out to harm them.


Video Example(s):


"We'll Repossess You."

"Russian Roulette". Having become doubtful that Russia was not behind the cyberattack on Air Force One as previously suspected, Elizabeth interviews Chinese foreign minister Chen Ming to see if his country was involved. Chen refutes the accusation, saying that a war between the US and Russia is the last thing China needs: they have invested heavily in both countries and when they come to take over the world, they won't do it with guns and bombs--"We'll repossess you."

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / ChinaTakesOverTheWorld

Media sources: