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  1. #1
    LiuJing is offline Member
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    definite article question.

    Kwame Kilpatrick - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The first line:

    Kwame Malik Kilpatrick (born June 8, 1970) is the former mayor of Detroit, Michigan.

    --------------------------

    My question is about the right use of 'the' . Should it be an 'a' to be put there instead, considering the fact that there are other former mayors of that city?

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Re: definite article question.

    Quote Originally Posted by LiuJing View Post
    Kwame Kilpatrick - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The first line:

    Kwame Malik Kilpatrick (born June 8, 1970) is the former mayor of Detroit, Michigan.

    --------------------------

    My question is about the right use of 'the' . Should it be an 'a' to be put there instead, considering the fact that there are other former mayors of that city?

    Thank you.
    I agree. Using "the" suggests that there may no longer be a mayor or that he is the only former mayor (that he is simply the only one that existed before the present one).

  3. #3
    Raymott's Avatar
    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Re: definite article question.

    Quote Originally Posted by LiuJing View Post
    My question is about the right use of 'the' . Should it be an 'a' to be put there instead, considering the fact that there are other former mayors of that city?

    Thank you.
    "The former mayor" can mean the most recent former mayor. But that's not good writing for a semi-permanent article. He will not always be the most recent former mayor.

  4. #4
    LiuJing is offline Member
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    Re: definite article question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    "The former mayor" can mean the most recent former mayor. But that's not good writing for a semi-permanent article. He will not always be the most recent former mayor.
    Actually what you have in mind that could possibly occur has happened: he is not the most recent former mayor.

    List of mayors of Detroit - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Detroit mayors list shows the current mayor is (Should I use 'was' here? I am not sure. ) preceded by Kenneth Cockrel, Jr., who succeeded Mr. Kilpatrick.

  5. #5
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Re: definite article question.

    Quote Originally Posted by LiuJing View Post
    Actually what you have in mind that could possibly occur has happened: he is not the most recent former mayor.

    List of mayors of Detroit - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Detroit mayors list shows the current mayor is (Should I use 'was' here? I am not sure. ) preceded by Kenneth Cockrel, Jr., who succeeded Mr. Kilpatrick.
    For the same reason, you should use "is" here if you believe the list is up to date.
    Or, you could say, "At the time of publication of the List of Detroit mayors, the current mayor was ..."

    However, you'll see on the bottom of that page:
    "This page was last modified on 9 June 2010 at 01:13."
    So an assumption that it's up to date is reasonable.

  6. #6
    asdf1234 is offline Newbie
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    Re: definite article question.

    Quote Originally Posted by LiuJing View Post
    Kwame Kilpatrick - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The first line:

    Kwame Malik Kilpatrick (born June 8, 1970) is the former mayor of Detroit, Michigan.

    --------------------------

    My question is about the right use of 'the' . Should it be an 'a' to be put there instead, considering the fact that there are other former mayors of that city?

    Thank you.
    I would say it depends. If he's the main subject of a piece of writing, then it's appropriate to use the definite article the. If he's not, and just mentioned as an auxiliary subject, then an indefinite article a is the way to go.

  7. #7
    albertino is offline Senior Member
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    Re: definite article question.

    (Shift of focus)
    It depends. If the author means "he" is the (former) mayor of Detroit and not that of Texas, California, etc., the definite article is okay here.

  8. #8
    Barb_D's Avatar
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    Re: definite article question.

    Quote Originally Posted by albertino View Post
    (Shift of focus)
    It depends. If the author means "he" is the (former) mayor of Detroit and not that of Texas, California, etc., the definite article is okay here.
    I don't quite follow this reasoning.

    I think "a" makes sense. There have been many former mayors. Remember that Wikipedia entries can be written by anyone.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  9. #9
    albertino is offline Senior Member
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    Re: definite article question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    I don't quite follow this reasoning.

    I think "a" makes sense. There have been many former mayors. Remember that Wikipedia entries can be written by anyone.
    What I mean is that "the former mayor" is modified by the of-phrase, which conveys a sense of definiteness, so the definite article is used here.
    Last edited by albertino; 28-Jun-2010 at 04:57.

  10. #10
    LiuJing is offline Member
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    Re: definite article question.

    Quote Originally Posted by albertino View Post
    What I mean is that "the former mayer" is modified by the of-phrase, which conveys a sense of definiteness, so the definite article is used here.
    No.

    You are a student of, let's say, Manila University.
    However, I don't think I can say you are the student of Manila University. The reason is simple: there are a lot of students in Manila University.

    Let's take another example:

    You are the president of the Philippines. I don't think I can say you are a president of the Philippines. The reason is that there is only one sitting president at a time.

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