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  1. #1
    Kotfor is offline Member
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    turn (a) traitor

    As far as I know there is a set phrase "to turn traitor". Would it be completely wrong to use a here?

    He turned a traitor.

    Or would it change the meaning a lot?

  2. #2
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    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Re: turn (a) traitor

    Quote Originally Posted by Kotfor View Post
    As far as I know there is a set phrase "to turn traitor". Would it be completely wrong to use a here?

    He turned a traitor.

    Or would it change the meaning a lot?
    Yes, it would be completely wrong. It would turn an understandable phrase into an ambiguous one.

  3. #3
    HanibalII is offline Member
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    Re: turn (a) traitor

    Quote Originally Posted by Kotfor View Post
    As far as I know there is a set phrase "to turn traitor". Would it be completely wrong to use a here?

    He turned a traitor.

    Or would it change the meaning a lot?
    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Yes, it would be completely wrong. It would turn an understandable phrase into an ambiguous one.

    And in language most people would be able to understand....Adding the 'a' changes the meaning of a sentence.

    'He turned traitor' means somebody became a traitor. Referring to a single person.

    However 'He turned a traitor" means somebody influenced a traitor to turn, referring to two people, the 'He' as well as the traitor.

    In my opinion, it doesn't create an ambiguous sentence. It creates a sentence with a different meaning. There isn't really more than one way to interpret the second sentence.


    PS, this is based on the fact both phrases are "He turned traitor - He turned a traitor"
    Last edited by HanibalII; 29-Sep-2012 at 05:44.
    I'm not a teacher yet, but I am studying a Bachelor of Education with an English Literature major at Charles Sturt University, in NSW, Australia.

  4. #4
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Re: turn (a) traitor

    I think this
    'However 'He turned a traitor" means somebody influenced a traitor to turn, referring to two people, the 'He' as well as the traitor'
    introduces a quite rare sense of 'turn'. I agree with the point, but I doubt whether it's likely to contribute to the OP's understanding (except in so far as it might lead Kotfor to regard that usage as more usual than it is!). Besides, the collocation is odd; a person who is turned (in that sense) becomes a traitor; they're not a traitor until someone turns them. If you 'turned a traitor' you would be taking a traior and making them a loyal citizen again! The expression 'turn a traitor' just doesn't occur.

    (I imagine Google will say it does, if only because of this discussion, but BNC has no cases, and the single one in COCA comes from Shakespeare - who was writing at a time when the language was more fluid; maybe he just added the 'a' for the metre. [Although it's not written metrically, there may be a joke - which I don't understand - involving a 'rude mechanical' breaking into iambic pentameters as a sign of their pretentiousness.])

    b

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