a former secretary / former secretary - article

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Senior Member

I am writing about a corruption scandal: 'At least 35 people are said to have been arrested in connection with the scandal, including former secretary of the ruling Popular Party and four mayors.' Would it be better to write a former secretary? I know you can omit an article before a title sometimes ('President of the ruling Popular Party'), does it work here as well?
  • Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    Keep the article, "a".
    "President of the ruling party" has dropped the definite article, "the" (I assume the party has only one president).
    We don't know how many former secretaries the party has. I think you need "a" to mean "one of them".
    (In journalistic language, and with the person's name after the title, you might find
    "...including former secretary of the ruling Popular Party Joe Blow and four mayors.")


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Even if there is only one party secretary now, there can be many former secretaries. Officials aren't like monarchs*: one does not have to die in order to be replaced.

    The U.S. has only one president, but I can write "a former president of the United States came to Massachusetts last week to support the campaign of Martha Coakley for Governor." The former president was Bill Clinton. Since "president" is a countable noun, it requires an article or some other determiner. I cannot write "The former president ..." because three other former presidents are also still alive, but they did not do this. It would be "the president of the United States ..." if Obama had come, since there is only one president now.
    *There are, of course, exceptions. North Korea comes to mind.
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