Can someone please affirm or deny the validity of the use of the definite article in a phrase like "in the original Greek?" I often encounter phrases like "'some word' in the original Hebrew/Latin/Greek means 'this or that.'" I know that the definite article should only be used if the word "language" follows the name of the language, but it's not the case. All examples where I've seen such phrases were written by native American English speakers.

  • The English language is full of quirks. Or: English is full of quirks. Those would be the same in any variety of English from New Zealand to Labrador and everything in between. Also, phrases like: in the original Greek or [language] would be the same. There is nothing American English about any of this.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 19:00
  • @Lambie Thanks for the comment and sorry for the confusion, I updated the question. So you say using "the" is okay even though there is no word "language" after the phrase? Does the name of the language in such cases function as a substantive?
    – Diane Mik
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 19:10

1 Answer 1


If you write: We can see in the original Greek etc. a native speaker's mind will automatically be seeing: "in the original Greek text" or "in the original Greek version", this would not be a case of: in the original Greek language. That would make no sense at all.

So, in these cases, it refers to "the original Greek [version or text or epitaph]" or whatever the thing is. As for the grammar of it, I would call it: noun dropping. Maybe it has another name, I don't know it.

Of course, this type of phrase pre-supposed the reader of a text already has seen that it is a text, version, epitaph, inscription, etc. It is used to avoid constantly repeating the term text, version, epitaph, etc.

This applies to all standard varieties of English.

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