Page 1 of 2 1 2 Last
Results 1 to 10 of 12
  1. #1
    julianort is offline Newbie
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    5

    Using indefinite article with first names

    In literature, once in a while I come across a strange (or so it seems to me) usage of indefinite articles with first names of people. Here's an example from one of the Harry Potter books: "Treating a hurt and bewildered Hermione with an icy sneering indifference."

    Thus, my question: what are the rules for using articles with first names? Is the use of the definite article ever possible?

    Thank you!

  2. #2
    riverkid is offline Banned
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    3,059

    Re: Using indefinite article with first names

    Quote Originally Posted by julianort View Post
    In literature, once in a while I come across a strange (or so it seems to me) usage of indefinite articles with first names of people. Here's an example from one of the Harry Potter books: "Treating a hurt and bewildered Hermione with an icy sneering indifference."

    Thus, my question: what are the rules for using articles with first names? Is the use of the definite article ever possible?

    Thank you!
    Good first question, Julia?, Julian?, Juliano?, J. A real stumper! It's got me, at present, thoroughly flummoxed.

    [Going off into the corner for some serious cogitation]

  3. #3
    stuartnz's Avatar
    stuartnz is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • New Zealand
      • Current Location:
      • New Zealand
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    1,370

    Re: Using indefinite article with first names

    Quote Originally Posted by julianort View Post
    In literature, once in a while I come across a strange (or so it seems to me) usage of indefinite articles with first names of people. Here's an example from one of the Harry Potter books: "Treating a hurt and bewildered Hermione with an icy sneering indifference."

    Thus, my question: what are the rules for using articles with first names? Is the use of the definite article ever possible?

    Thank you!
    I'm not a language teacher, and so the technical explanation is a long way beyond my abilities, but I can say with certainty that in the phrase you quoted, "the" would be equally acceptable. "Treating the hurt and bewildered Hermione with an icy sneering indifference." woud work as well and sound as right to most native speakers' ears, I'm sure. As to why, that's one for the professionals.

  4. #4
    julianort is offline Newbie
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    5

    Another example of article "a" with first names

    Here's another example, this one is different and makes a lot more sense now:

    "Patrolling officer Jones arrested a man who said that his name was George Bush. After searching through the city's database, the officer discovered a George Bush with outstanding arrest warrants."

    Clearly, "a" in this example is similar, if not identical, to the use of "one" in similar context, e.g., "discovered one George Bush with outstanding warrants," meaning "some guy whose name happens to be George Bush."

    But I am still perplexed about the use of "a" in my Hermione example above...

  5. #5
    engee30's Avatar
    engee30 is offline Key Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • England
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    2,927

    Post Re: Using indefinite article with first names

    Quote Originally Posted by julianort View Post
    "Treating a hurt and bewildered Hermione with an icy sneering indifference."

    Thus, my question: what are the rules for using articles with first names? Is the use of the definite article ever possible?

    Thank you!
    In my humble opinion, this use of indefinite article is like referring to any other person of Hermoine sort, with all her typical characteristics considered.
    Similarly:
    Mr Scotts is a genius in physics at our institute. Could he be another Einstein?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    5,403

    Re: Using indefinite article with first names

    A proper noun, as in someone's name, when preceded by the indefinite article, indicates that the bearer of the name is in a temporary state.
    Hermione in tears - a tearfu Hermione - is a temporary state, to be superseded by the Hermione we are used to, all serious and studious.
    Last edited by David L.; 24-Mar-2008 at 14:57.

  7. #7
    Neillythere's Avatar
    Neillythere is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Interested in Language
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • Thailand
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    536

    Re: Using indefinite article with first names

    Hi DavidL:

    How would you similarly characterise the corresponding use of the definite article, as in "Treating the hurt and bewildered Hermione with an icy sneering indifference.", as per stuartnz's comment?

  8. #8
    2006 is offline Banned
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • Canada
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Posts
    4,087

    Re: Another example of article "a" with first names

    Quote Originally Posted by julianort View Post
    Here's another example, this one is different and makes a lot more sense now:

    But I am still perplexed about the use of "a" in my Hermione example above...

    You needn't be perplexed. In your initial example, the article and the person's name are separated by adjectives, but you also have examples with the article directly preceding the name.
    a couple more examples...

    An injured Don is still a better player than most of the other players.
    A Sergei is probably Russian, and a Svend is probably Scandinavian.

    2006

  9. #9
    julianort is offline Newbie
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    5

    Re: Using indefinite article with first names

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    A proper noun, as in someone's name, when preceded by the indefinite article, indicates that the bearer of the name is in a temporary state.
    Hermione in tears - a tearfu Hermione - is a temporary state, to be superseded by the Hermione we are used to, all serious and studious.

    This is inspiring. On the example of the same line of characters, I guess it is possible:

    One lovely spring day on Hogwarts' grounds
    to come across a warm-hearted Snape
    who's making gleeful sounds,
    While watching the cunning Malfoy
    Perform a Wronsky feint, oh boy.

    I think I got it. Thanks David L!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    5,403

    Re: Using indefinite article with first names

    With 'the', it becomes as much a statement of fact as
    Treating the sprained ankle with a warm compress.

Page 1 of 2 1 2 Last

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •