I wrote this:

This means that, as with any distributed application, concurrency is key: we have at least one flow of execution per node running concurrently with all others, and [...]

I was told to change it to "is the key". Is that right?


"Is the key" implies that it is the only, or most important, factor. "Is key" means it's important. Which did you mean?

  • Not sure it matters which meaning OP wants. You've accurately summarised the distinction between including the article or not, so he can just choose the appropriate form without further assistance. Good short answer, btw. – FumbleFingers Jul 7 '11 at 16:03
  • I meant that it's important, so I guess my initial wording was right. Thanks! – LaC Jul 7 '11 at 16:05
  • BTW, "is the key" sounds closer to "the key solution" to me, while I just want to indicate an important aspect of the problem. Is my feeling right? – LaC Jul 7 '11 at 16:44
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    I prefer just is key unless you are arguing that there is nothing else to consider or must always be considered above all else. Inserting the word the here infers that anyone who thinks something else is equally or more important is wrong. As I can probably find a situation in a specific distributed application where concurency is not the most important factor I would stick with just "IS KEY". – Chad Jul 7 '11 at 17:16
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    cool answer, +1 – RiMMER Jul 7 '11 at 19:27

I think something that is missed here is that using "key" as an adjective (key point, key findings, etc.), although common for quite a while, is still somewhat debated, but using it predicatively (something is key), is only recently in vogue by some, and definitely not standard. So when the initial questioner was told to change "is key" to "is the key", it was to use standard English, perceived variations of meaning notwithstanding. (Since we are on a language usage page, I should point out that Chad should have used "implies" instead of "infers" in his comment.)

  • Thee existing answer is over six years old, has already pointed the distinction between is key and is the key, and the original phrase is evidently standard when it appears so often in writing. – Nij Oct 14 '17 at 0:22

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