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    #1

    The definite article still puzzles me.

    Bill Clinton makes surprise visit to North Korea seeking release of US reporters - Telegraph

    Right below the title:
    Bill Clinton, the former president of the United States, made an unannounced visit to Pyongyang on Tuesday in an apparent mission to secure the release of two American reporters .

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

    My question is: is the definite article used correctly? How about just dropping it?

    By adopting the definite article, hasn't the news writer involuntarily suggested that Bill Clinton is the only former president of the US?

    Thank you.

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    #2

    Re: The definite article still puzzles me.

    **Neither a teacher nor a native speaker.**

    Hi jiamajia,
    I think the article is correct because he is the former president of the United States.
    However, I can understand that you're not sure because he is the only one.
    I believe we can agree that a (instead of the) would be wrong here.
    Just dropping it, I don't know.
    (Maybe I would drop it too, but I'm not fully sure...)

    Cheers!

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    #3

    Re: The definite article still puzzles me.

    Quote Originally Posted by jiamajia View Post
    Bill Clinton makes surprise visit to North Korea seeking release of US reporters - Telegraph

    Right below the title:
    Bill Clinton, the former president of the United States, made an unannounced visit to Pyongyang on Tuesday in an apparent mission to secure the release of two American reporters .

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

    My question is: is the definite article used correctly? How about just dropping it?

    By adopting the definite article, hasn't the news writer involuntarily suggested that Bill Clinton is the only former president of the US?

    Thank you.
    ********** NOT A TEACHER **********

    Hello, Jiamajia.

    The definite article still puzzles me, too.

    (1) I think that it would still be good English if you deleted the the.

    (a) I found this in a scholarly article on the Web:

    John is the current president.

    John is (the) former president.

    John is the best president.

    This scholar claims that the the may be deleted only in the second

    sentence because of the word former.

    (b) I found this headline on the Web:

    Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic, is ....

    (c) Nevertheless, I feel that most American speakers are

    more comfortable with the.

    On the other hand, most Americans prefer

    Former US president Bill Clinton says .... to The former US president
    Bill Clinton says ....

    (2) Barack Obama, the American president, will speak.

    Bill Clinton, the former American president, will speak.

    Yes, your observation seems correct: On the face of it, it appears

    that Mr. Clinton is the only former president, living or deceased.

    Theoretically, a person who is completely ignorant of American

    history could think that the United States is a new country that has had

    only two presidents -- the current one and the former one.

    I guess that the "answer" lies in the fact that language depends on

    our making many assumptions and guesses about real life. Many people

    in other countries know enough about the United States to know that

    there are other living former presidents -- although they (along with

    some Americans!!!) might not know the exact number. I do not want to

    give a wrong number, so let's count them: Messrs. Carter, George H.W.

    Bush, William Clinton, and George W. Bush.

    THANK YOU

    P. S. In your native language, does this ambiguity also exist?
    Last edited by TheParser; 09-Aug-2010 at 20:25.


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    #4

    Re: The definite article still puzzles me.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    ********** NOT A TEACHER **********

    In your native language, does this ambiguity also exist?

    In the Chinese language, there is no definite article. There is no tense either. (For example, you can say in English: I liked him very much, but no more. In Chinese, it is: I like him very much in the past, but no more now. Hence we mostly use adverbial phrases indicating the time to reflect tenses.)

    For an instance of no definite article, we say: he is manager of that company. We don't say : he is a manager (or the manager ) of that company, leaving you quite in the dark as to whether he is the only manager or one of the managers at that company.

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