An Officer and a Gentleman

Nothing tricky about this one. A role or profession in the singular requires an article: “he is a teacher” or “she is the CFO”. (The definite article “a” never has a plural.)

No particular reason for the film references this week. Just popped into my head again. It applies to generic titles, jobs and roles:

  • Dr Cleese is professor of philosophy at the University of Woolloomooloo => a professor (or the professor)
  • We spoke to Mieke XXX, software department manager at ZZZ, about this => the manager
  • as well as showing us as reliable business partner => a reliable business partner
  • As user, you are free to deviate from this requirement => As the user…

Note that I’m talking about the grammar of running text here, not specifying job titles in fragments or clauses that aren’t subject to the grammar of full sentences (such as a list of authors, or when signing or addressing a letter). So the first two examples would also be fine if capitalized and referring to a job title!

Prevalence: high. Because it’s the literal translation of the Dutch in which there isn’t an article.
Frequency: moderate. A common issue in CVs and “advertorial” interviews in marketing material.
Native: no. But not a specifically Dutch issue – turns up from many languages.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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