Hippocrates cured many illnesses—and then fell ill and died. The Chaldaeans predicted the deaths of many others; in due course their own hour arrived.

(Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, translated by Gregory Hays.)

My misunderstanding is why the word deaths is used with the here. There is no context preceding this sentence in which we could find information about the Chaldaeans' predictions, so would the meaning change if the is left out?

In the other hand, there is no article before many illnesses. What's the difference between these two cases?

  • Short answer: we use the because we're talking about specific deaths. Not just any deaths, but the specific deaths of many others.
    – stangdon
    Feb 8, 2022 at 15:53
  • @stangdon why then we don't do the same with many illnesses? The author is setting apart the deaths predicted by the Chaldaeans but in relation to Hippocrates's work just saying about "some, though many, illnesses". My only thought it's due to the word many: it should be used with the as long as we emphasize that each member of an aforementioned group is concerned (1, 2), and that is not the case. So could we say something like Hippocrates perfectly cured the illnesses? Feb 8, 2022 at 16:22
  • Because there's nothing specific about the illnesses in the sentence. If it said "...illnesses that had plagued the people", then the might be appropriate, but as the sentence is written, it isn't specific.
    – stangdon
    Feb 8, 2022 at 16:51

1 Answer 1


Each person is born once and dies once, so we speak of the birth of X and the death of X as specific moments in their story. Here, the deaths of many [people] are referred to.

The translator could have said

The Chaldaeans predicted many deaths.

  • Is it possible to say The Chaldaeans predicted the many deaths.? There are answers on ELL in which their authors are stating that an expression the many may be used as long as we are trying to emphasize that each member of an aforementioned group is concerned (1, 2). But can we use it just to set apart the [many] predicted deaths or would it sound wrong? Feb 8, 2022 at 16:49
  • The many people who have written to us (as in your first link) means the people who have written to us, of whom there were many. You can't say The Chaldaeans predicted the many deaths without saying something more about those deaths, such as which occurred in the epidemic. Feb 8, 2022 at 17:37

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