"The" + descriptive noun + proper noun

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hamlet

Senior Member
Français (FR)
Hello all, it's often said (well I read it several times in grammar books) that "the" before a proper noun is to be omitted (I mean in this sort of phrases : "actor George Clooney", "President Roosevelt", "dear Henry", and so on. But I've also seen "Mr. Thing was great friends with the cellist Paul Tortelier", "the dear Paul", and lots of other examples so my question is : when do we put "the" or not?

PS: I doubt "the dear Paul" is correct though..
 
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  • timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    "The dear Paul" - definitely isn't correct, but then note that "dear" isn't a descriptive noun - it's an adjective and so different from all your other examples:).

    I don't know a "rule" - but I'll tell you my impressions: "The" can never be used before a title (so "President Roosevelt said...." "I saw Mr Brown yesterday"). Otherwise I don't see much of a difference in meaning between using "the" or not. In usage I would tend to always use "the" I think - "I saw the actor George Clooney yesterday". Missing it out sounds a bit "journalese" to me. In fact I think in normal speech we would follow the noun - "I saw Paul Tortelier the cellist last night".
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    Hello all, it's often said (well I read it several times in grammar books) that "the" before a proper noun is to be omitted (I mean in this sort of phrases : "actor George Clooney", "President Roosevelt", "dear Henry", and so on. But I've also seen "Mr. Thing was great friends with the cellist Paul Tortelier", "the dear Paul", and lots of other examples so my question is : when do we put "the" or not?

    PS: I doubt "the dear Paul" is correct though..
    I think the rule is no definite article before a proper name.

    In common speech we do not say 'the George Clooney' but we do say 'George Clooney, the actor who starred in 'Brother Where Art Thou?'...
    or 'The actor, George Clooney.'

    'The cellist Paul Tortelier' is also correct in the same way.

    In certain circumstances, such as on TV chat shows, you might hear a presenter introduce her guest as: The (one and only) George Clooney... we call this 'build up' or 'hype' and as such is idiomatic rather than common speech.

    Unlike 'actor' and 'cellist' (job titles) 'President' acts as part of the name in the same way as a personal title. We can say 'the President of... ' but not 'the President Roosevelt', just as we would not say 'the Mr. Thing' or 'the Dr. Doolittle'.
     
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