a/the Lance Corporal Harold Dawson and a/the Private Louden Downey

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VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
— This past Friday, two Marines — a Lance Corporal Harold Dawson and a Private Louden Downey — entered the barracks room of a P.F.C. William Santiago and assaulted him. Santiago died at the base hospital approximately an hour later.
A Few Good Men, movie

Doesn't the indefinite article sound strange here to you? For them to be used, I'd have expected it at least to be something like "a Lance Corporal named Harold Dawson and a Private named Louden Downey"...

Thanks.
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    'A' or 'one' is sometimes used to introduce new people into the discussion. It implies you won't have heard of them before this. If they were civilians, not marines, they might be spoken of as a Harold Dawson and a Louden Downey - that is, in effect a person called Harold Dawson.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    'A' or 'one' is sometimes used to introduce new people into the discussion. It implies you won't have heard of them before this. If they were civilians, not marines, they might be spoken of as a Harold Dawson and a Louden Downey - that is, in effect a person called Harold Dawson.
    I see now.

    And, in this context, would "the" also be possible?
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    No, people don't (in general) take articles. The indefinite one specifically marks the name as presumed unfamiliar. I might write that the telephone was not in fact invented by Alexander Graham Bell, but by one Antonio Meucci. It would be insulting your general knowledge to say 'one Alexander Graham Bell', but I can legitimately mark the more obscure name as a person who is probably new to you.

    In the marine context, the people talking have no reason to have any prior knowledge of these people whose names are introduced. This would be different if one of them regularly got drunk and caused trouble. (Oh, Harold Dawson at it again!)
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    This would be different if one of them regularly got drunk and caused trouble. (Oh, Harold Dawson at it again!)
    In which case, "the" would be justified.
    But normaly, titles such as those in the OP don't take articles before names.
    (let me know if I misunderstood you, please)
    ---------
    Thank you!
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    This past Friday, two Marines — a Lance Corporal Harold Dawson and a Private Louden Downey — entered the...
    This past Friday, two Marines — Lance Corporal Harold Dawson and Private Louden Downey — entered the...
    This past Friday, two Marines — Harold Dawson and Louden Downey — entered the...

    I can't think of a situation where "the" would be used (except perhaps the contrived version below - grammatically OK but unreaistic:) )
    This past Friday, two Marines — the Lance Corporal known as Harold Dawson and the Private known as Louden Downey — entered the...
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    I can't think of a situation where "the" would be used (except perhaps the contrived version below - grammatically OK but unreaistic:) )
    This past Friday, two Marines — the Lance Corporal known as Harold Dawson and the Private known as Louden Downey — entered the...
    Although, "the" here would optional, right?...
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    Tom: Ther is a Michael Morson on the phone asking for you.

    The inclusion of "a" suggests that the caller identified himself as Michael Morson, but Tom does not know this person and cannot vouch for his authenticity.


    No, people don't (in general) take articles.
    One situation where it is common to take an article (the, not a/an) is with official titles.

    The President told several lies in his tweets.
    Please stand for the Chancellor.
    We met the Right Reverend Jennie Jamberry at the cathedral.
     
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