Bush was elected <the?> President of the United States.

JungKim

Senior Member
Korean
The following is an exam question about grammar where you're supposed to pick only one right answer:
① Bush was elected the President of the United States.
② He caught me by my arm.
③ It has passed three years since my father died.
④ The concert is on channel 6 live from Carnegie Hall.
Now, the answer is (4).
And my question is if (1) is grammatically wrong.

< Moderator's note: Side discussion of answer ② has been =moved to its own thread:

caught me by <my/the> arm [the + body part?] >
 
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  • JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    I don't know of #1 is wrong exactly, but that "the" before "president" strikes me as odd, and I'm not sure why. I would almost certainly say "Bush was elected president of the United States" instead. In fact, that's how I'd talk about any election or appointment, no matter how major or minor:
    She was elected treasurer of the club.
    He was named CEO of the company.
    He ran for president of the organization, but he lost.
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    There is nothing wrong with sentence 1. In BE it would be more common not to say the President, but not wrong.
    As I said, "elected the president of the United States" may very well might not be wrong. It isn't the way AmE speakers normally say this, though.

    < Side discussion of 'my arm' removed by moderator. >
     
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    SwissPete

    Senior Member
    Français (CH), AE (California)

    < Side discussion of 'my arm' removed by moderator. >


    BTW, I think ④ could benefit from a comma after 6: "The concert is on channel 6, live from Carnegie Hall."
     
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    JungKim

    Senior Member
    Korean
    I don't know of #1 is wrong exactly, but that "the" before "president" strikes me as odd, and I'm not sure why. I would almost certainly say "Bush was elected president of the United States" instead. In fact, that's how I'd talk about any election or appointment, no matter how major or minor:
    She was elected treasurer of the club.
    He was named CEO of the company.
    He ran for president of the organization, but he lost.
    You said you don't know why "the" sounds odd in such constructions, but let me ask this anyway. :D
    Is the zero article because (a) words like 'treasurer', 'CEO' and 'president' in these constructions work like a quasi proper noun or because (b) they are like a quasi abstract noun or (c) both or (d) for some other reason?
     
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    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    You said you don't know why "the" sounds odd in such constructions, but let me ask this anyway. :D
    Is the zero article because (a) words like 'treasurer', 'CEO' and 'president' in these constructions work like a quasi proper noun or because (b) they are like a quasi abstract noun or (c) both or (d) for some other reason?
    Honestly, I think it's just convention. I can think of no logical reason for it. If I do, I'll let you know.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    You said you don't know why "the" sounds odd in such constructions, but let me ask this anyway. :D
    Is the zero article because (a) words like 'treasurer', 'CEO' and 'president' in these constructions work like a quasi proper noun or because (b) they are like a quasi abstract noun or (c) both or (d) for some other reason?
    I would say (c) both. "The President of the United States" would refer to the person, but "President of the United States" without the refers to the office, job, position, title, etc. As such it has to act as a complement, not a subject:

    Bush was President of the United States.:tick:
    President of the United States was Bush.:cross:
     

    JungKim

    Senior Member
    Korean
    I'm not sure if this should be treated under a different thread, but I'm going to ask here for now.
    Regarding the treasurer example:
    She was elected treasurer of the club.
    Let's say the cub keeps a plurality of treasurers at all times.
    Would the above example be both grammatical and suitable for this particular club?
     

    JungKim

    Senior Member
    Korean
    How about this?
    "She was elected a member of the club."

    Is this sentence fine with or without the indefinite article?

    If so, can you also say "She was elected a treasurer of the club" provided there're a plurality of treasurers in the club?
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    How about this?
    "She was elected a member of the club."

    Is this sentence fine with or without the indefinite article?

    If so, can you also say "She was elected a treasurer of the club" provided there're a plurality of treasurers in the club?
    Yes (to both questions), the indefinite article works fine. "A treasurer" does not refer to a definite person as "the treasurer" would.

    Compare the use of articles on opposite sides of a linking verb:

    The man was a carpenter. [Normal sentence. A particular person belonged to a category.]
    A carpenter was the man. [An unusual sentence. Either a poetic reversal of the above, or "the man" as an attribute.]

    She was treasurer of the club. [Normal sentence.]
    Treasurer of the club was she. [Poetic reversal.]

    We elected her treasurer.:tick:
    We elected her a treasurer.:tick:
    We elected treasurer her.:cross:
    We elected a treasurer her.:cross:
    Treasurer was elected her.:cross:

    But:

    We elected treasurer the woman who had most recently been president.:tick:

    I would not try to put the indefinite article before treasurer in this sentence.
     

    JungKim

    Senior Member
    Korean
    Yes (to both questions), the indefinite article works fine. "A treasurer" does not refer to a definite person as "the treasurer" would.
    ...
    We elected treasurer the woman who had most recently been president.:tick:
    I would not try to put the indefinite article before treasurer in this sentence.
    Thank you Forero for the detailed explanation.
    Let me get this straight.
    If you have two or more same titles in the organization, you can go with the indefinite article or the zero article before the title in these constructions (e.g., elected + 'title).
    If, however, you have only one title, you can't use the indefinite article before the title.

    Am I right?

    And if your last example falls into the former category of having two or more titles, is there any particular reason for the indefinite article not being allowed in front of treasurer?
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Thank you Forero for the detailed explanation.
    Let me get this straight.
    If you have two or more same titles in the organization, you can go with the indefinite article or the zero article before the title in these constructions (e.g., elected + 'title).
    If, however, you have only one title, you can't use the indefinite article before the title.

    Am I right?
    Yes
    And if your last example falls into the former category of having two or more titles, is there any particular reason for the indefinite article not being allowed in front of treasurer?
    The problem is that "We elected a treasurer" makes "a treasurer" into a definite person, so the rest of the sentence has no place to go.
     

    JungKim

    Senior Member
    Korean
    YesThe problem is that "We elected a treasurer" makes "a treasurer" into a definite person, so the rest of the sentence has no place to go.
    I'm not trying to nitpick here, but since "a" is the indefinite article, "a treasurer" should be something other than "a definite person". At the same time, I think I sort of understand where you're getting at. So I wonder what other term might be better suited for the blank: "We elected a treasurer" makes "a treasurer" into a __________ person.
     

    Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I believe these are the correct versions:

    ① Bush was elected the President of the United States.

    < Side discussion of 'my arm' removed by moderator. >


    GS
     
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    Forero

    Senior Member
    I'm not trying to nitpick here, but since "a" is the indefinite article, "a treasurer" should be something other than "a definite person". At the same time, I think I sort of understand where you're getting at. So I wonder what other term might be better suited for the blank: "We elected a treasurer" makes "a treasurer" into a __________ person.
    I do mean a definite person, a person now identified, whom we can now call "this treasurer". And there is no contradiction within the phrase "a definite person", which includes the adjective "definite" along with an "indefinite" article. The indefinite article just says that this definite person was not mentioned before, but the phrase itself "a definite person" is itself a mention of her or him.

    After saying "We elected a treasurer" or "We now have a treasurer", it is quite appropriate to talk about "this treasurer" or "the treasurer just mentioned" because he or she is now a definite person, an actual person who is either male or female.

    "That made him angry" is less definite than "that made him an angry man." In other words, "angry" by itself is an attribute, but "an angry man" is a person we can refer to, who has the attributes "angry", "adult", and "male". In "That made him angry", the person referred to as "him" was given that attribute, but in "That made him an angry man" he was not given "an angry man" but instead he turned into an angry man. Of course the pronoun "him" does refer to a definite person.

    Similarly, in "We elected her treasurer of the club", "her" refers to a definite person but "treasurer of the club refers to an office, not a person, and the sentence says that she was given that office. This sentence would not be followed by "this treasurer". The definite person mentioned here is "her", and "treasurer of the club" is like "angry" in "That made him angry".
     

    JungKim

    Senior Member
    Korean
    I do mean a definite person, a person now identified, whom we can now call "this treasurer". And there is no contradiction within the phrase "a definite person", which includes the adjective "definite" along with an "indefinite" article. The indefinite article just says that this definite person was not mentioned before, but the phrase itself "a definite person" is itself a mention of her or him.
    Maybe I didn't make myself understood clear enough. When I said in my earlier post
    since "a" is the indefinite article, "a treasurer" should be something other than "a definite person".
    , I was referring to the indefinite article "a" in "a treasurer", not "a" in "a definite person". Since "a" is the indefinite article, I thought, "a treasurer" should refer to an indefinite treasurer, not a definite treasurer. So I was looking for some term to be used in the blank above instead of "definite".
     
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