I'm boss vs I'm the boss

Discussion in 'English Only' started by akuptsov.hse, Sep 14, 2017.

  1. akuptsov.hse Member

    Hello everyone,

    In the English coursebook that I'm using this year there's this text about sibling rivalry which ends with the following sentence:

    It's still important to make sure he still knows I'm boss.

    I'm surprised that there's no the in the I'm boss clause so I'd like to ask:

    • Does this sound grammatically correct to a native ear?
    • If yes, what's the difference between I'm the boss and I'm boss, if any.
    Thank you for your help.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2017
  2. Englishmypassion

    Englishmypassion Senior Member

    India - Hindi
    I, too, would have expected "the" before "boss" in that context.
    My take on this:
    I'm the boss. = You are boasting about your power and suggesting the listener needs to follow you or do what you tell them to do. Compare with: I am the person you need to obey. (This suits the context provided in the OP.)

    I'm boss. = You are simply saying that you are officially the head/leader of a team/an organisation. You are not boasting, not trying to intimidate/influence the listener. Compare with: "I'm captain and he is vice-captain (of the team)." (There is no article before "captain" and "vice-captain" because the speaker is talking about the official position, and the words don't refer to the persons holding the positions. But "I'm the captain and I will decide the batting order, not you.")
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2017
  3. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    "Let someone know you're the boss/show someone you're the boss" is a set phrase. I don't perceive much difference when the article is omitted though.

    I think "I'm (the) boss around here" is often heard with either version.
  4. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    This is generally true of many job positions. You often hear 'he's manager of the Liverpool football club' or 'she's headteacher at St Stephen's'. Without the article, the emphasis is on the role of the person rather than their official job title.
  5. Englishmypassion

    Englishmypassion Senior Member

    India - Hindi
    I usually say that the emphasis is on the position (/role), not the person (holding the position) - - we're talking about the position, not the person. Almost the same idea, just a slightly different way of putting it. :)
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2017
  6. akuptsov.hse Member

    Thank you all for your help.

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