Which of the following two expressions is better?

  • A doctor by training as he is, he has proved himself to be a successful writer.
  • Doctor by training as he is, he has proved himself to be a successful writer.
  • If you want this clause to be concessive, meaning "despite being a doctor by training" you should use though rather than as. As can be used concessively in the As...as construction: "As old as he is, he outpaced many far younger competitors". – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 26 '13 at 4:16
  • Thank you for your answer. But "as" can be used to indcate concession according to grammar textbooks. My conern here is: in the sentence "A doctor by training though he is, he has proved himself to be a succesfful writer", whether the indefinite article "a" before "doctor" is just optional, or compulsory, or should be omitted. – Brightli Mar 26 '13 at 11:40
  • The article is optional. On the other matter, I must respectfully disagree with your textbooks. – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 26 '13 at 12:26
  • @ Brightli: I don't understand why you've chosen this particular sentence as your example. There's no meaningful connection between being a trained doctor and being a successful writer. Idiomatically, native speakers would not normally include the "emphatic" element as he is, since that would imply that because he's a trained doctor, it naturally follows that he is also a successful writer. – FumbleFingers Jun 28 '13 at 18:09

I do not consider the article to be optional. "A doctor" is what he is. "Doctor" would be used only in direct address. Put it the other way around: Would you say, "He is doctor," or "He is a doctor?" I think only one of these could be correct.

Note that StoneyB is correct: "as" is used concessively only when it is comparative, as in "as old as he is" (StoneyB's example). The isolated "as" in your sentences do not constitute a concessive construction.

Might I also suggest a few constructions that I would consider more fluid, more pleasing, and more understandable? They are these:

"Even though he is a doctor by training, he has proved...."

"A doctor by training, he has nevertheless proved...."

"He is a doctor by training, and yet he has proved...."

The rest of the sentence deserves some discussion, too, but that's not something to go into here.

  • Thank you for your answer. Another similar quesition is: Should we say "Much as he needed money for a new car, he decided not to borrow it from the bank" or "Much though he needed money for a new car..."? – Brightli Apr 11 '13 at 8:47
  • "Much as" is a colloquially abbreviated version of "as much as," and so it forms a comparative phrase that works fine. "Much though" isn't commonly used, as far as I know. Keep in mind that "though" is a negative, which if placed up against "much" sort of negates that word, whereas it's really supposed to be working with the subsequent phrase; "though" stands on its own to modify the statement about needing the money; forget the "much" in this case. If this still isn't clear, I can try to discuss it at greater length if you want. – John M. Landsberg Apr 11 '13 at 19:11
  • Mr. Landsberg, thank you very much! Would you please offer me more about the similarities and differences between "as" and "though" when they are used to indicate concession? – Brightli Apr 12 '13 at 0:02
  • And I have another question about the usage of English article. Should we say "Have you ever received word of what has happened to her"or "Have you ever received the word of what has happened to her"? That is, can we add a definite article before "word" in this context? – Brightli Apr 12 '13 at 0:06
  • "Received word" is the usage here. (Also don't use "ever." That would mean "could it possibly have happened at any time in history?" instead of just "has it happened yet?") We would never say "the word" in this case. "The word" is used, but it means something different. "The word" basically means "the point being conveyed." Let's say the boss of a company wants every worker to wear white clothes. Then somebody shows up wearing black when everyone else is in white. Somebody could say to that person, "Didn't you get the word?" That would mean, "Don't you know you're supposed to wear white?" – John M. Landsberg Apr 12 '13 at 0:42

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