a/the Russian-English dictionary


Senior Member

Maybe my question is simple and easy to answer. However, I am not sure whether this phrasing below is the most common in the English-speaking countries.

If I want to mention a bilingual dictionary, should I say, for example, a/the English-Russian (or Russian-English) dictionary? Do you use a hyphen? What article do you use here?
  • Chez

    Senior Member
    English English
    If the advice is general and they should look at any English-Russian dictionary, then use 'a'. If you are referring to a particular English-Russion dictionary (e.g. the copy in your College library), then use 'the'. Yes, hyphenate it. Although most language dictionaries have both Language A to Language B and Language B to Language A sections, it is normal to put the native language of the person it is mainly designed for first, therefore English-Russian if it is for English students learning Russian and Russian-English if it is for Russian students learning English.


    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Normally you would only need to use two names (Russian-English) if you have to make it clear. And sometimes it might be necessary to say it even more clearly: a Russian-English English-Russian dictionary. But for most purposes, one name is enough. You're Russian, so at home you probably have a Russian dictionary, which is all written in Russian. I wouldn't be able to understand yours. At home I have an English dictionary, which of course is all in English. I also have a Russian dictionary, a French dictionary, and so on. Because I'm a foreign learner of these languages, these are actually Russian-English (and English-Russian).

    Normally a two-language dictionary goes in both directions, but I also have some annoying ones: an Arabic-English dictionary, for example, that isn't an Arabic-English English-Arabic dictionary. There is no easy way of saying this! :) But normally I just call it my Arabic dictionary.


    Senior Member
    India - Hindi
    I'm a bit confused, Chez and eb. Doesn't the hyphen mean "to". So if a dictionary has English words as main entries (arranged alphabetically) and their meanings explained in Russian, that's an English-Russian dictionary, isn't it? (Here we suppose that only Russian is used to explain meanings)
    Thanks a lot.


    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I have quite a few A-B dictionaries (the majority, actually) that do not have the corresponding B-A dictionary in the same book*. If I wanted to ensure that my listener understood I was referring to one that did, I would specify it as an A-B B-A dictionary or a bilingual one.

    *Edit to add (This refers mainly to those relating to English and Japanese. I suspect for European languages the default may well be both in one volume.)
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