Consider sentences like this one. "Reluctant to place the dog and the children in the same houses as caretakers affected by the slobbering sickness, the authorities decreed that said children would be placed in the care of the Church of the Fiery Severed Fist of Our Beloved Deity while said dog would be placed in a large forest where the elimination of their waste would no longer constitute a public nuisance."

At first blush, "said" seems to function as a determiner in the last sentence. "the said children*" or "a said dog*" are both ungrammatical, although "the aforementioned children" is perfectly okay. This particular sense of "said" does not appear to belong to an open class. Participles that premodify nouns can be, and often must be, preceded by determiners, as in the phrases "the dwindling candles" or "a rotating planet." However, we don't see "the said candles*" or "the said rotating planet*." We do see "said dwindling candles" or "said rotating planet." So "said," in this context, looks like a determiner.

But I'm well aware that I could be missing something here, and so pose this question to the group. Is "said" really a determiner in the contexts that I've just mentioned?

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    I just checked Google for this phrase, and am not seeing the form I'm addressing in my question. In most of the instances that I checked, "the said" was a noun phrase synonymous with "things that are said." I have never seen phrases like "the said child" or "the said dog." In the context in the example I provided, "said" is not acting like a participle. Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 6:52
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    What is more, interpreting "said" in my example as having adjectival force yields literal nonsense; neither the children nor the dog are being "said." Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 6:59
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    The first hit in Google Books for "the said" is: "...giving credit to the said last-mentioned assertion...". Searching for "said person" one hit is: "...who shall physicall examine said person...". Are these not similar? I have never seen "the said" as a NP. Rather, "said" in these examples is modifying the NP it precedes, indicating that it has already been mentioned (ie ="aforementioned"). Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 8:43
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    @jlawler: Legal or fake legal, and permissible only among lawyers or not, the construction I mentioned does indeed occur. I don't see what stress has to do with the status of a word as a determiner. "These" is a stressed word, yet it can also be a determiner, as in "These people are smiling." The rest of your comment seems to address whether "said" should be a determiner rather than whether it is is some contexts. Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 17:28
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    @JamesGrossmann, the answer is simple - it depends on your definition/theory of the determiner.
    – Alex B.
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 19:49

2 Answers 2


Using a noun phrase without a determiner is already fairly common in certain registers of English -- notably newspaperese. I think that there you're also more likely to find formal-souding words like said used.

The OED Online gives said simply as an adjective (ignoring irrelevant senses) meaning "named or mentioned before". In the examples they give, said is always used with a preceding determiner.

So I think it's consistent with both of the above to say that:
(1) said is just an adjective in this case and
(2) some registers of English allow NPs to occur without Dets more frequently.

thus leading to NPs like "said children".

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    While the OED Online may give a determiner in all its examples; said is not always used with a determiner. I don't see how "of said child" can be grammatical if you don't consider said a determiner. In fact, I think these Google Ngrams make it clear that said is a determiner in American English but not in British English Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 22:45
  • You may be correct about the AmEng - BrEng difference. Regarding grammaticality, like I said, some registers don't require a Det, and there is no evidence from Ngrams that makes such a register difference clear. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 23:53
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    @Mark B.: But if "said" in the sense that we're discussing here is an adjective, what can we make of constructions like "The child was said (meaning aforementioned).*" and "the possibly said (meaning possibly aforementioned) child*"? Inasmuch as these two examples are ungrammatical, "said" still looks like a determiner here. Commented Jun 22, 2012 at 1:04
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    @GastonUmlaut: But of them are ungrammatical, hence the asterisks at the end of each. I just cooked them up to show that it's unlikely that "said" in this context could be an adjective. Commented Jun 22, 2012 at 2:54
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    @Gaston: I know that "the said child" means "the child that has been mentioned." My point is that it could not have this reading if "said" were a participle in this context. People don't "say" children; they say words. So "said" in this context must be something other than a participle. Commented Jun 22, 2012 at 2:58

At first, a couple of words on the origin of “said” in the sense of “above-mentioned”. The OED gives the following.

†8. To speak of, mention, enumerate, describe.

?c1225 (1200) Ancrene Riwle (Cleo. C.vi) (1972) 256 Lichte gultes beteð þus ananrich [read richt] bi ow seoluen. & þach seggeð ham inschrift.

c1390 (1350) Joseph of Arimathie (1871) l. 70, I am not worþi to seyn moni of his werkes.

a1400–50 Alexander 5551 And oþir sellis he saȝe at sai wald he neuir.

c1540 (1400) Destr. Troy 5204 The same yle I said you, Cicill is calt.

As you can see from the examples above, the verb “say” in this sense is used transitively, i.e. it takes a direct object. All dictionaries of Modern English mark this dated use as legalese or used humorously.

This agrees with data on “said” – the earliest quote in the OED is this one (by the way, note “þe” before “said”):

a1300 Cursor M. 14978 (Cott.) , Son þar went disciplis tua Vnto þe said [Gött. þis said] castel.

Incidentally, all of the nine examples in the OED do have a determiner before “said”. The tenth example is the absolutive use of “said”, as in

... the said were sometimes lurking about the Islands of St. John.” (1648)

There is one important thing to remember about legalese. As Garner argues, “It is a convention in legal writing to omit both definite and indefinite articles [emphasis mine - Alex B.] before words such as plaintiff, defendant, petitioner, respondent, appellant, and appellee. It is almost as if these designations in legal writing become names, or proper nouns, that denote the person or persons referred to. The convention is a useful one because cutting even such slight words can lead to leaner, more readable sentences” (Garner 2011 :79).

Also, “There is a contagious tendency to in legal writing to omit articles before nouns, perhaps on the analogy of the special legal convention for party names. … There is a tendency, for example, in tax cases to refer to taxpayer without an article, as if it were a proper name” (p. 79)

Garner gives the following examples:

“Federal law also required that taxpayer [read the taxpayer] make contributions ….”

“In approaching solution [read the solution] to this problem we must look ….”

“We conclude that although the award as remitted by trial judge [read the trial judge] was generous ….”

Now about “said” used in legalese. Garner does mention that it is used as a substitute for the, that, this, or any other deictic or “pointing” word. Used for such a word, said typifies legalese and is often parodied by non-lawyers. And lawyers occasionally fall into self-parody” (p. 793). Here’s one of his examples:

“A considerable number of persons were attracted to said square by said meeting, and said bombs and other fireworks which were being exploded there. A portion of the center of the square about 40 to 60 feet was roped off by the police of said Chelsea, and said bombs or shells were fired off within the space so inclosed [sic!], and no spectators were allowed to be within said inclosure [sic!]. The plaintiffs were lawfully in said highway at the time of the explosion of said mortar, and near said ropes, and were in the exercise of due care” (1892).

Now, I asked you earlier about your theory/definition of the determiner. It is important to know such things because some linguists understand determiners as a lexical category (determiner1 in Chalker and Weiner 1998). There are linguists who understand determiners as a functional category (e.g. the authors of CGEL, determiner2 in Chalker and Weiner 1998), and that is why they also have determinatives. Under the latter proposal, which I happen to agree with, a determiner is not necessarily a determinative.

The authors of CGEL give the following three tests that help us distinguish between adjectives and determinatives in English (note that these tests may not work in other languages, esp. the first test).

  1. Determinatives cannot combine with articles (*a this book).
  2. Determinatives can be used with a single count NP (one book).
  3. Determinatives can be used in a partitive construction (one of them).

Note that a word doesn’t need to pass all of those three tests to be considered a determinative – e.g. “one” doesn’t pass the first test (the one problem that remains).

Quite often the same word can belong to both word classes, adjectives and determinatives, e.g. “sufficient”.

sufficient as a determinative:

?the sufficient helpers

sufficient of helpers

sufficient as an adjective:

a sufficient reason

I think that “said” may behave like a determinative in legalese in writings of certain people (in whose idiolect "said note" is fine but "the said note" is not) - if there are such writers. However, in this case you’d have to address the following two questions:

How consistent are those writers in omitting articles before “said” followed by a singular count noun? Is "the said" followed by an NP ungrammatical in their idiolect?

Do you want to have the same word belong to different word classes in different registers in your theory of syntax? I personally would say yes to the second question. As Walter Bisang argues, there are languages where “lexical items are not necessarily preclassified for syntactic categories” (Bisang 2011: 293).

  • 1. The data on the origin of the word "said" isn't relevant; I'm looking at its current use synchronically. Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 6:10
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    2. Note your post’s sentence: “Garner does mention that it is used as a substitute for the, that, this, or any other deictic or “pointing” word.” “The” is a determiner. “That” and “this” as in “that child” or “this” as in “this lollypop” are determiners. If “said” can be a substitute for these words, then Garner has made my case for me. 3. I can’t find any reference on the net to a distinction between “determiners” and “determinatives.” But I bet you have, so could you please share such a link? Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 6:51
  • 4. Let’s see: In formal English, “well” can be a noun or an adverb, “like” is almost always is a verb or preposition, and “ax” is almost always a noun. Informal English allows “well” and “like” can be discourse markers, and “ax” can be a verb meaning “fire (someone from a job)”. Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 6:52
  • @JamesGrossmann, I'll address your points 1 and 2 later. Not sure about point 4. Like as a verb (as in I like tea) and like as a preposition (a book like yours), well as in "well read" and "an oil well" - they are different lexemes!
    – Alex B.
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 15:54
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    I didn't know that! But then, couldn't "said" as in "He said that" and "said" as in "said people" be different lexemes too? Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 22:37

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