the then foreign minister or the then-foreign minister

rubes1

Senior Member
United States, English
Then Foreign Minister (and current Vice President) Faruq al-Shara reacted to the establishment of this party by saying...

or

Then-Foreign Minister...

I have never hyphenated in this case and it seems odd to me. My colleague believes this sentences should be hyphenated. Which is correct and why.

Thanks:)
 
  • englishman

    Senior Member
    English England
    rubes1 said:
    Then Foreign Minister (and current Vice President) Faruq al-Shara reacted to the establishment of this party by saying...

    or

    Then-Foreign Minister...

    I have never hyphenated in this case and it seems odd to me. My colleague believes this sentences should be hyphenated. Which is correct and why.

    Thanks:)
    Neither are correct, though the second is slightly better. If you leave out the hyphen, someone is likely to think that you mean:

    "Then, the foreign minister ..."

    If you put the hyphen in, it looks wierd, and the meaning is unclear. Better is to write:

    "The former foreign minister ..."
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    English
    englishman said:
    Neither are correct, though the second is slightly better.

    I think you might be mistaking the question, englishman.

    The impression I get is that a previous Foreign Minister is being discussed.
    The then Foreign Minister has since been replaced by someone else.

    I would always put "the" in front of it, and I wouldn't hyphenate the 'then' to 'Foreign' as it would look all wrong.

    The then Foreign Minister (and current Vice President) Faruq al-Shara reacted to the establishment of this party by saying...
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    English
    The then Pope
    The then captain

    Things like these are never hyphenated (maybe a case could be made that they could be, as one word titles they wouldn't look too amiss, but the two words of Foreign Minister are never hyphenated and to put one onto the front of Foreign would be wrong).
     

    comsci

    Senior Member
    Mandarin, Taiwan(Yankees 40 Wang)
    I agree with englishman that "the former + position" sounds better to my ears.

    The former PM, the former president, the former finance minister.

    The former secretary of defense, the former CIA chief/coordinator..and so on.
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    English
    comsci said:
    I agree with englishman that "the former + position" sounds better to my ears.

    The former PM, the former president, the former finance minister.

    The former secretary of defense, the former CIA chief/coordinator..and so on.

    Although not pertinent to the case being queried here, "the former president" suggests that the person is still alive. "The then president" doesn't.

    Also, the point about "the then" is that the event being spoken of is in the past, at a time when the person being spoken of held the rank/title/position mentioned. "The former" doesn't carry that meaning.
     

    englishman

    Senior Member
    English England
    maxiogee said:
    I think you might be mistaking the question, englishman.

    The impression I get is that a previous Foreign Minister is being discussed.
    The then Foreign Minister has since been replaced by someone else.

    I would always put "the" in front of it, and I wouldn't hyphenate the 'then' to 'Foreign' as it would look all wrong.

    The then Foreign Minister (and current Vice President) Faruq al-Shara reacted to the establishment of this party by saying...
    I think there are two possibilities.

    1. A sentence that is in the pluperfect, and you wish to indicate that so-and-so was foreign minister at that time. In this case, if you were happy with the painful clumsiness of it, you could write:

    "The then foreign minister, Mr X had said .."

    but this is much better as:

    "Mr X, who was then foreign minister, had said .."

    2. A sentence in the imperfect, referring to someone who used to be foreign minister:

    "The former foreign minister, Mr X, said yesterday .."

    I would never write "the then .."; it sounds awful (though I guess it may sound fine to a German, who would write something like "die damalige Aussenminister, Mr X ...")
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    English
    Google-fight (and I) disagree with you.

    "The then" scores 3,360,000,000
    "The former" scores 877,000,000

    "The then" is not only valid, it is required at many times.
     

    comsci

    Senior Member
    Mandarin, Taiwan(Yankees 40 Wang)
    englishman said:
    Neither are correct, though the second is slightly better. If you leave out the hyphen, someone is likely to think that you mean:

    "Then, the foreign minister ..."

    If you put the hyphen in, it looks weird, and the meaning is unclear. Better is to write:

    "The former foreign minister ..."

    A minor mistake to be noted. :)
     

    comsci

    Senior Member
    Mandarin, Taiwan(Yankees 40 Wang)
    maxiogee said:
    Google-fight (and I) disagree with you.

    "The then" scores 3,360,000,000
    "The former" scores 877,000,000

    "The then" is not only valid, it is required at many times.

    Interesting Maxi, I clearly understand what you've just said regarding the usage of "then" and "former." When "then" is used, it implies event of the past or someone who used to be in the position but deceased whereas "former" does not carry the same meaning, but to signify the person's "ex-" position if I'm not mistaken. They are simply used for different purposes other than being literally different in meanings.
     

    englishman

    Senior Member
    English England
    maxiogee said:
    Google-fight (and I) disagree with you.

    "The then" scores 3,360,000,000
    "The former" scores 877,000,000

    "The then" is not only valid, it is required at many times.
    Well, all that shows is that more people have used the clunky form than the elegant one.

    Why do you think "the then" is required at many times ? When would it be impossible to use the form:

    "Mr X, who was then foreign minister, .." ?
     

    englishman

    Senior Member
    English England
    comsci said:
    A minor mistake to be noted. :)

    Ah, that was one of the little "tests" I like to drop in for non-native English speakers. Well spotted, your spelling is coming along nicely.

    [ahem]
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    English
    I meant it is required if the choice is between it and "the former".
    But to answer your "Mr X, who was then foreign minister…"
    query —> I find that unwieldy and longer than necessary and leaving the sentence open to confusion. Consider this…

    A) Speaking about the night the government fell in 19xy, Mr X, who was then foreign minister, said "I voted according to my conscience".

    B) Speaking about the night the government fell in 19xy, Mr X, the then
    foreign minister, said "I voted according to my conscience".

    Which quote do you feel is the one made at the time the government fell?
     

    englishman

    Senior Member
    English England
    maxiogee said:
    I meant it is required if the choice is between it and "the former".
    But to answer your "Mr X, who was then foreign minister…"
    query —> I find that unwieldy and longer than necessary and leaving the sentence open to confusion. Consider this…

    A) Speaking about the night the government fell in 19xy, Mr X, who was then foreign minister, said "I voted according to my conscience".

    B) Speaking about the night the government fell in 19xy, Mr X, the then
    foreign minister, said "I voted according to my conscience".

    Which quote do you feel is the one made at the time the government fell?

    Well, I'd say both are somewhat ambiguous from the POV if deciding at what time they were made. If it were important to make it clear that a quote was made in 19xy, I'd write:

    "Speaking, in 19xy, about the night the government fell, Mr X, who was then foreign minister, said .. "
     

    Txiri

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Sorry, I skipped right to the end, to post, and I didn´t read the other posts, so excuse me for that.

    then foreign minister

    then-foreign, means he was foreign at that time, but implicitly, no longer is
     
    If you use "the then President", it must be clear (explicitly or implicitly) when the then refers to.

    For example, during the Cuban missile crisis, the then President said ...

    If you use "the former President", it does not depend on knowing when.

    Incidentally, I tried to find out what CMS says about it and happened to find a good example of obligatory hyphenation: foreign-policy-making elite as in:

    She is a member of Bush's
    foreign-policy-making elite.

    I agree with Maxiogee that "Foreign Minister" (proper noun) would never be hyphenated (e.g. "The Foreign-Minister's secretary.") but "foreign minister" (adjective + common noun) certainly could be hyphenated in some contexts, e.g.

    The foreign-minister's microphone was switched off.

    This must be hyphenated to emphasise that the adjective 'foreign' here refers to the minister not to the microphone.

    Robbo
     
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