The diplomat was quick to organize a peaceful dialogue between the two countries’ leaders, and many say that his efforts were key to averting a war.

I am not sure whether the word “key” is an uncountable noun or an adjective. And, I also think about the sentence is typo, the sentence has to add “a” or “the” before “key”.

Please tell me your thought.

The sentence is from “EIKEN 1 kyu deruzyun de saitan goukaku goi mondai kanzen seiha” page 38.

  • 3
    Sans article it's an adjective. With an article it's a noun.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 13, 2018 at 0:08
  • @HotLicks I'm in the process of writing an answer that says that (but rather longer-windedly). Mar 13, 2018 at 0:09
  • @WillCrawford - I get short of breath easily.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 13, 2018 at 0:15
  • @HotLicks almost passed out stifling my laughter :) (please) feel free to edit, I fear I've rambled a bit Mar 13, 2018 at 0:17
  • 1
    My own view is that, here, 'key' is a noun with the zero article.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 13, 2018 at 1:57

1 Answer 1


It's slightly unclear what your actual question is, but presuming it to be "is this correct?" then the answer is "yes".

In this case key is being used as an adjective, and the meaning of it is that this action was pivotal (one can also say it was a turning point): had it failed, events would have taken a different course, and likely war would have broken out soon afterwards.

As @HotLicks has just commented, the presence or absence of an article simply switches key between acting as a noun or an adjective, and the meaning is pretty much unchanged. The only difference depends on whether the article is definite or indefinite: the key implies that that single thing (action or event) was both necessary and sufficient; a key means that some other actions or events were needed.

  • Dear, Will Crawford. Thank you for your explanation, I understand that in this case the word “key” is an adjective not a noun. I also very helpful your alternative sentence, that starts “Had it failed, “. Thank you very much.
    – Taka
    Mar 13, 2018 at 3:56
  • FWIW, Taka, the linked "duplicate" question is actually full of good answers. The use of the word "crucial" there is exactly synonymous with "pivotal" in my answer. It is a different question though. Mar 13, 2018 at 17:02
  • Dear, Will Crawford. Thank your for your another information, I will search the words “crucial” and “pivotal”. And, I did not know an abbreviation, FWIW. I looked up the abbreviation. The meaning is “for what it is worth” or “(sonna hanashi mo aruto) hanashi wo sonomamani uketoru in Japanese.
    – Taka
    Mar 16, 2018 at 0:51
  • I'm sorry, I probably should not have used the abbreviation! Mar 16, 2018 at 5:18

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