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I have been watching a TV show about cheetahs, and the narrator used the following sentence:

Speed is key,

As far as I know, "key" is neither abstract nor uncountable. I don't understand why 'the' is omitted before 'key'.

  • How about key: "6. adjective - [ADJECTIVE noun] - The key person or thing in a group is the most important one." I would say importance is abstract. – user3169 Jul 29 '17 at 20:08
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key can be an adjective (of paramount importance, necessary, critical, crucial) or a noun.

  • Can we omit 'the' before an adjective? – user31782 Jul 29 '17 at 17:20
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    @Chenmunka: It does answer the question. There is no need for an article before a predicate adjective. Every single little thing does not have to be spelled out. They're learners, not idiots. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 29 '17 at 18:34
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    That's the reader's fault, not the writer's, @Rompey. It is the single necessary and sufficient fact to explain the usage. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 29 '17 at 19:29
  • @user31782: Can we omit the article before a predicate adjective? Usually (nearly always) we must do so. We don't say This car is the fast but This car is fast. The sentence in your question can be paraphrased Speed is paramount. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 29 '17 at 19:34
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"Speed is key!"

If you googled the phrase, you'd know that its author is an Irish producer, game commentator, and internet personality known under the pseudonym of Jacksepticeye. In one of his videos he uses the phrase when going fast or wanting to go fast in a computer game. And of course, there, the word "key", grammar-wise, is neither abstract nor uncountable noun – it's an adjective already defined by the previous answerer.

Actually, "Speed is key" is a meme which is a cultural unit/idea/pattern of behavior that is passed from one person to another by non-genetic means (as by imitation).

An additional source is here.

At the same time, if a key is also a part to be pressed by a finger that serves as one unit of a keyboard (and there may be a special key designed for the acceleration in a game), the above-mentioned person, speaking too fast, might just have skipped the definite article. You can never tell with memes.

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