I mean, does it mean 'tedious tasks' in the context?

According to the consulting firm McKinsey, knowledge workers spend up to 60 percent of their time looking for information, responding to emails, and collaborating with others. By using social technologies, those workers can become up to 25 percent more productive. The need for productivity gains through working harder and longer has a limit and a human toll. The solution is to enable people to work smarter, not just by saying it, but by putting smart tools and improved processes in place so that people can perform at enhanced levels. Think of it as the robot­assisted human, given superpowers through the aid of technology. Our jobs become enriched by relying on robots to do the tedious while we work on increasingly more sophisticated tasks.

Stretch: How to Future-Proof Yourself for Tomorrow's Workplace By Karie Willyerd, Barbara Mistick

  • I would never use the tedious. At least not in any formal writing. It most likely means what you think it means, but it sounds awful to me. (Much like do the needful which has come into business jargon recently, but which I find to be a horrible construction. Both have turned adjectives into nouns.) Mar 23, 2019 at 23:40
  • @JasonB - Sounds a bit pedantic to me. Dictionaries even mention this as a valid use of the definite article: the Used before an adjective extending it to signify a class and giving it the function of a noun: the rich; the dead; the homeless.
    – J.R.
    Mar 24, 2019 at 0:05
  • @J.R. I overgeneralized. In your examples, they are all referring to classes of people. You can add people after those phrases and it would mean the same thing. (I can think of several other adjectives that work with people that could also be used on their own.) But in both the needful and the tedious, what's being referred to isn't people but things. (Tasks or chores in this case.) That seems to be new development. It's like saying be sure to safely navigate the slippery or don't eat the contaminated. Without the right nouns after, those both sound odd. Mar 24, 2019 at 0:29
  • @Jason Bassford this is not that new. "To to the polite" or "to do the pretty" were common in writing from the Regency and Victorian periods, meaning to comply with etiquette obligations. In both cases "thing" is implied. I suspect there are other similar usages Mar 24, 2019 at 0:34
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    @JasonB - Those aren't "my examples," they are from the dictionary. And I don't see why such usages can't be extended to work. Like any of life's activities, gardening is a funny balance of the entertaining, the absorbing, the mundane and the tedious. (E. Townshend, in The Indepedent)
    – J.R.
    Mar 24, 2019 at 10:28

1 Answer 1


Yes, tedious tasks or tedious work- your interpretation is correct.

Edit- for reference, here’s what Merriam-Webster says about this use of “the” (definition 3b):

—used as a function word before a singular substantivized adjective to indicate an abstract idea

// an essay on the sublime


  • Yes, some adjectives lend themselves to that.
    – Lambie
    Mar 24, 2019 at 14:37

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