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We discussed the use of article before a proper noun, in the following thread.

http://thegrammarexchange.info...932910637#2932910637

Recently I came across a sentence as follows.

As the American writer Raymond Chandler said: the law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism.

Why is there a definite article "the" before "American", when there is a proper noun, Raymond Chandler?

Apple
Original Post
Hi, Apple,

In that thread you mention we discussed the absence of the indefinite article before a common noun followed by a proper name (Thai woman Pattaramon Chanbua) and the absence of the definite article before a common noun denoting title (famous professor Charles Johnson).

In the latter case, I should have added in that old thread that we can consider professor to be a common noun rather than a title, mainly because it is preceded by an adjective and titles will not usually take adjectives, unless both are capitalized in set phrases like: Honorable Judge John Smith. However, even in this case the tendency seems to be to use the definite article if there is an adjective as this has the effect, so to speak, of turning the title into a common noun.

In the case of writers, it is clear that the noun is not a title but merely a profession. In this case - as well as in the case of "professor" above - we can either use or omit the definite article, the trend being very much in favor of using the article.

Actually, if you google "by the American writer Raymond Chandler," you will get 31,900 results, and only fewer than 300 if you search "by American writer Raymond Chandler."

So, summing up, this is - as far as I see it - the situation with common nouns followed by proper names:

1) If the common noun is a title (e.g. doctor, judge) and does not take an adjective, it is more usual to omit the article: Judge John Smith, Doctor Mary Peters.

2) If the common noun is a title but is preceded by an adjective, it is more usual to use the definite article: the Honorable Judge John Smith, the famous doctor Mary Peters.

3) If the common noun is merely a profession rather than a title, it is more usual to use the definite article if it refers to a well-known person, whether the noun takes an adjective or not: the (American) writer Raymond Chandlers.

4) If the common noun is a general noun added to describe somebody that is unknown, we omit the article: Thai woman Pattaramon Chanbua.

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