a / the wife of a teacher

taked4700

Senior Member
japanese japan
Hi,

Being a wife of a teacher, I know how much time AT HOME my husband puts into planning, e-mailing parents, and grading homework nightly and he doesn't get paid for his time.

The sentence above is one I came across on the Internet.

I think this sentence is idiomatic.

How about "Being the wife of a teacher..." ? Is this also idiomatic in this context?

Thanks in advance.
 
  • Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    "Being the wife of a teacher..." is idiomatic. I'm not so sure about "...I know how much time AT HOME my husband puts into planning..." - I think the author was trying to squeeze too much out of her sentence.
     

    taked4700

    Senior Member
    japanese japan
    Thank you, Berly and Parla.

    I can find a lot of examples that have a similar construction such as "a president of a company", "a principal of a school", and "a captain of a team."

    Considering these examples are authentic, it seems to me that I would not need to think these sentences imply there is more than one wife/president/principal/captain of an organization.

    So, let me ask one question.

    What difference do you see between "Being the wife of a teacher" and "Being a wife of a teacher"?

    I guess:

    1. "the wife" suggests that the author wants to stress that her husband is a teacher.

    2. "a wife" shows that the author just wants to express the severe situation in which teachers in general are forced to survive.

    Thanks in advance.
     
    Last edited:

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    "Being the wife of a teacher" means you are a teacher's wife.
    and
    "Being
    a wife of a teacher" means that you are one teacher's wife amongst many. You intend this to mean that you are typical example of a teacher's wife but it also has the implication that you are one of several wives that one teacher has. Thus, although it is correct, it should be avoided.
     

    Vektus

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I'd explain it in this way (but I'm not very sure because I'm not a native, you see):
    "a wife of a teacher" means that this situation (in the sentence) is common to any wife of any teacher.
    I'd say "the wife of a teacher" in another sentence, where it would be one more description, for example: "There stands the wife of a teacher of whom I told you yesterday"
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    " Being a teacher's wife/married to a teacher, I can tell you .... " is another possibility. Perhaps that's why the confusion arises and you see so often somewhere or another 'Being a :cross:wife of a teacher ...' which isn't at all 'idiomatic' if by idiomatic you mean what a native speaker would say, assuming the native speaker teacher has only one spouse which is the only legal possibility in the UK.

    "A/Any teacher's spouse will tell you how much time is spent out of school preparing lessons, marking, ... "

    Hermione
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    First of all, it is worth saying that 'the wife of a teacher' or 'the president of a company' is the normal way to say this. This is good English style and 'a wife of a teacher' or 'a president of a company', although you will meet such expressions, is bad style (except when a particular point is being made which would require it).

    The reason is that we normally assume that there will be one wife, one president etc.
    When we say 'a teacher' or 'a company' we are already expressing, through the article 'a', the idea of indefiniteness. That article already shows that we are not specifying which teacher, or which company.

    When we say 'the wife' or 'the president' we do not cancel out that indefiniteness, because it is prior in sense. The indefiniteness of 'a' is transmitted by implication to 'the' wife and 'the' president.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    When we say 'a teacher' or 'a company' we are already expressing, through the article 'a', the idea of indefiniteness. That article already shows that we are not specifying which teacher, or which company.

    When we say 'the wife' or 'the president' we do not cancel out that indefiniteness, because it is prior in sense. The indefiniteness of 'a' is transmitted by implication to 'the' wife and 'the' president.
    I didn't want wandle's excellent point to get lost. It can be a bit confusing because we say:

    Being a parent myself...
    As a parent...
    As a businessman...
    Being a stay-at-home husband and father...

    But then we're recommending that you go around and use "the":

    Being the CEO of a globally-ranked firm...
    As the wife of a professor...
    As the parent of an adult child...
    As the parent of grown children...

    It can be hard to see that the indefinite article in the second cases is doing all the work of the indefinite article in the first cases. But it is!

    There can certainly be cases of multiple-indefinites, as Vektus suggested:

    As a client of a major marketing firm... (there are multiple major marketing firms, and they all have multiple clients)
    As a practitioner of a forgotten art... (multiple forgotten arts, they all have multiple practitioners)

    Or of reverse scenarios:

    As a fan of the world's fastest-growing sport... (there can only be one "world's fastest-growing sport," but it must have multiple fans)
    Being a true connoisseur of the one true art, opera...
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    "A" gives me mind to think of a polygamist teacher. I think "the" would be preferred. (Unless you were an old-time Mormon living in Utah.) :D

    Note: In years gone by Mormons took multiple wives.
     
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