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  1. Suddenly, to everybody's surprise, the silent Mr.Smith swung around and addressed Barbara.
  2. The dinner was served by a silent Mrs. Keats.
  3. I saw an infuriated Jennifer, who started shouting at me the moment I opened the door.
  4. It seemed Walter didn't pay any attention to a tearful Kitty.
  5. She hasn't got lovely eyelashes like marvellous Monica.
  6. I bet your Mum kept you well clear of horrible Jesse.

The rule I learned at university said that the is used when the adjective a permanent quality of the person in question. E.g. 'I met the wicked Matilda the other day' would suggest that Matilda is inherently wicked.

The indefinite article a/an, on the other hand, would denote the mood or an unusual quality of the person described.

However, recently I've come across a lot of examples where no article is used with names modified by adjectives (see examples 5 and 6 above).

Can anyone explain why there are no articles in sentences 5 and 6?

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1 Answer 1

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Your description of the use of the definite article as opposed to the indefinite article is accurate. The presence or absence of one of these articles, however, in no way alters that standard usage.

As for why the article may disappear, it strikes me that when the article is there, it draws attention towards the adjective and away from the person. Let me use sentences 4 and 5 to illustrate:

It seemed Walter didn't pay any attention to a tearful Kitty.

Stated this way, the sentence indicates that Walter is not paying attention to Kitty's tearfulness; he is not moved or affected by her distress.

She hasn't got lovely eyelashes like marvelous Monica.

In this case, the attention of the sentence is squarely on Monica, and "marvelous" is relegated to being a pure adjective, neither calling for nor receiving any unusual or special notice from the speaker. If we added "the," it would put the attention on the fact that Monica is marvelous. (This can, by the way, be a vehicle for sarcasm, if you want to point out that she's really not all that marvelous after all.)

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