the then president

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epistolario

Senior Member
Tagalog
I would normally say the following:

When my dad went to the United States several years ago, he saw Bill Clinton who was the president then or at that time.

But my dictionary gives this expression:

the then king

For me, this order where the adverb then precedes the word king doesn't sound natural. Is this the correct order and my own sentence incorrect? Thanks.
 
  • USMeg

    Senior Member
    English/USA
    "Then" in this context functions as an adjective, which in English always (okay, there are a FEW exceptions, but pretty much always) comes before the noun. When you say "He was president then" -- that's an adverb. "The then king" is analagous to "the former king."
     

    Oeco

    Senior Member
    English - US
    That is correct. The "then president" is saying "who was then the president." The other word order "president then" would better be written "who was the president at the time." This is just a stylistic distinction, it seems to me. Your word order makes perfect sense.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Both are correct but are used in different sentence constructions.

    Here are some examples of "the then X":

    http://www.computerweekly.com/blogs/tony_collins/2008/01/some-npfit-major-issues-did-th.html
    The seriousness of the issues listed by Bellairs indicate that a presentation by the Department of Health and NHS Connecting for Health to the then prime minister Tony Blair on the NPfIT in February 2007 might have over-optimistic.

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/05/20070504-8.html
    In addition to the 2003 visit to England, the President and Mrs. Bush met Her Majesty and His Royal Highness in 1991, during the White House State Dinner hosted by the then President George H. W. Bush and Mrs. Barbara Bush.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    "Then" in this context functions as an adjective, which in English always (okay, there are a FEW exceptions, but pretty much always) comes before the noun. When you say "He was president then" -- that's an adverb. "The then king" is analagous to "the former king."
    The difference is that "the then king" means that he was king at the time the event occurred where "the former king" means that he was not king at the time the event occurred, but king at some time before the event.

    "In 1981, the then king of X declared..." means he was declaring it while still king.

    "In 1981, the former king of X declared..." means he was declaring it at a point after he was king.
     

    USMeg

    Senior Member
    English/USA
    I said analogous because "former" is also an adjective in my example. I did not state or imply that the two phrases were equal in meaning.
     
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