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    #1

    No article before a countable noun?

    When I was searching for the word 'envoy' in Macmillan dictionary, there was an example sentence:

    He was formerly French envoy at the Hague.

    I do not understand, why there is not an article before 'French envoy'. It is countable noun and countable nouns are generally preceded by an article. Or aren't they?

    Thanks
    Last edited by tom3m; 24-Jul-2012 at 11:04. Reason: problem with link

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    #2

    Re: No article before a countable noun?

    You could also use an article there.

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    #3

    Re: No article before a countable noun?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    You could also use an article there.
    So it's correct without an article? I have to say that I share tom3m's confusion about how this can be a correct sentence.

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    #4

    Re: No article before a countable noun?

    With job titles we very often omit the articles.

    He was formerly President of the CSA/King of Transylvania/Ruritanian ambassador the the Holy Saw.

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    #5

    Re: No article before a countable noun?

    Quote Originally Posted by tom3m View Post
    When I was searching for the word 'envoy' in Macmillan dictionary, there was an example sentence:

    He was formerly French envoy at the Hague.

    I do not understand, why there is not an article before 'French envoy'. It is countable noun and countable nouns are generally preceded by an article. Or aren't they?

    Thanks
    To use "a French envoy" allows the possibility that there was more than one envoy. No article makes it clear that there was only one envoy.

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    #6

    Re: No article before a countable noun?

    Quote Originally Posted by billmcd View Post
    To use "a French envoy" allows the possibility that there was more than one envoy. No article makes it clear that there was only one envoy.
    Good point, but it does not explain why we can omit 'the', which would show us there was only one envoy.

    That's not a criticism. I can't think of a convincing answer myself.

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    #7

    Re: No article before a countable noun?

    Quote Originally Posted by billmcd View Post
    No article makes it clear that there was only one envoy.
    Don't we use the definite article to make clear that there is only one example od a particular thing? The president, the Sun

    My misunderstanding of yours comes from the quoted sentence. Do we normally use the zero article before countable nouns? Furthemore, do we normally use the zero article before countable nouns to make it clear there is only one example of the thing?

    Thank you

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    #8

    Re: No article before a countable noun?

    Quote Originally Posted by tom3m View Post
    My misunderstanding of yours comes from the quoted sentence. Do we normally use the zero article before countable nouns? Furthemore, do we normally use the zero article before countable nouns to make it clear there is only one example of the thing?
    We do it sometimes. It is possible in predicative nouns, for example:

    He is king.
    He is president.


    In these sentences, the words "king" and "president" are names of positions. "The president" can denote either a person or a position. The following examples, save for the third one, come from the book Expletives in Existentials by Jutta M. Hartmann. We can say

    Bush is president of the United States, which is the most powerful position in the world.


    but we can't say

    *Bush is president of the United States, who is the most powerful person in the world.

    On the other hand, we can say both

    Bush is the president of the United States, which is the most powerful position in the world.

    and

    Bush is the president of the United States, who is the most powerful person in the world.

    The third sentence is mine. I believe it's fine.

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    #9

    Re: No article before a countable noun?

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    We do it sometimes. It is possible in predicative nouns, for example:

    He is king.
    He is president.


    In these sentences, the words "king" and "president" are names of positions. "The president" can denote either a person or a position. The following examples, save for the third one, come from the book Expletives in Existentials by Jutta M. Hartmann. We can say

    Bush is president of the United States, which is the most powerful position in the world.


    but we can't say

    *Bush is president of the United States, who is the most powerful person in the world.

    On the other hand, we can say both

    Bush is the president of the United States, which is the most powerful position in the world.

    and

    Bush is the president of the United States, who is the most powerful person in the world.

    The third sentence is mine. I believe it's fine.
    Thank you,
    that was quite a tough one for me. If I got it correctly, in your 'Bush' sentences the one that is wrong is wrong because 'who' cannot refer to 'president' which is just a position and the rest of the clause is just additional information where the position operates. On the other hand the latter with 'the', which is correct, says something about either person or position of the president of the USA (a particular one person) and can therefore be refered to by the pronoun 'who'. Could I get your feedback/correction of my comprehension?


    Thanks again
    Last edited by tom3m; 25-Jul-2012 at 21:56.

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    #10

    Re: No article before a countable noun?

    Yes, that's how I think it works. Please note though that it's my opinion. It's not said in the book.

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