Is there a difference between these references to a specific person:

"The implication is clear: as the psychologist Jonathan Haidt said..."


"The implication is clear: as psychologist Jonathan Haidt said..."

The first one uses the definite article and is a quote from Daniel Kahneman's book 'Thinking, Fast and Slow', where the article is consistently used in such references. In the second one I've omitted the definite article. It seems more intuitive for me, a non-native speaker, and is something I would use in my own writing.

Are both expressions equally correct? Are there situations that require the article and vice versa?

  • 2
    I'd like to ask you to clarify your question: at first sight it may look like you are asking about basic article usage, which I don't think is your intention. However, I have seen the equivalent to your second example in texts by native speakers so one can't put it down to learner mistake. Although there is a definite change in the 'feel' of the sentence I can't really explain it, and since I am now curious as to what would make a native-speaker choose between one and the other, I'm up-voting your question. – Sara Costa Jun 29 '13 at 21:45
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    In this particular example, including the more strongly implies that the reader might feasibly already know who Jonathan Haidt is. To some extend, the writer is either reminding us that Haidt is in fact a psychologist, or distinguishing him from other people with the same name who aren't psychologists. I would characterise the two usages as equivalent to the psychologist, whose name is Jonathan Haidt and [a] psychologist... – FumbleFingers Jun 29 '13 at 23:10

There's a wikipedia entry about this: False title. Follow the references from there to find various opinions about it.

  • It's not clear what relevance your answer and the linked article have to the question. The question is not about 'False titles'. but about the presence or absence of the word "the". – TrevorD Jun 29 '13 at 23:31
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    @TrevorD "false title" just one name for the construct in question in which the article is omitted, leaving something like "psychologist Jonathan Haidt" which looks like it's using the word "psychologist" as a title. In other words it's exactly what the question asked about. Your comment strongly suggests that you didn't even look at the article before criticizing me. – Wumpus Q. Wumbley Jun 29 '13 at 23:38
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    I did look at the article, but I didn't immediately see anything relevant. If you were to clarify your answer to indicate why you think it's relevant - and which parts, then that would be more helpful. Personally, I don't agree that it's a 'false title' - it's being used as a description of his profession, with or without the "the", not as a title (which would in any event have an initial capital). – TrevorD Jun 29 '13 at 23:50
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    We may be slightly at cross-purposes. When I suggested you clarify your answer, that was because the etiquette on this site is to not just provide links, but to quote and explain the relevant parts. Please see this Help page which expressly states that answers that are "barely more than a link to an external site" are not desired. The actual question was "Can the definite article be omitted when referring to a person qualified by a noun?" You have not provided an answer to that, but merely a link to a 'discussion' about it. Contd... – TrevorD Jun 30 '13 at 0:12
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    @Wumpus Q. Wumbley: you completely missed the point. If all you post is a link to an external site, please write a short, 1 paragraph summary of the linked material, and if necessary an explanation why is it relevant. – Karoly Horvath Jun 30 '13 at 9:47

I've accessed the quote plus further context, and would say that there is very little difference between the two versions in this case. However, some similar constructions are more title- than job-spec-orientated:

"He was definitely dead as a result of the fall," said Doctor John Watson.

*"He was definitely dead as a result of the fall," said the doctor John Watson.

(unless this is referencing a particular doctor already specified, when a comma would be inserted after doctor)

But digging deeper, one seems to find little consistency:

"I was eating my egg sandwich," said pupil / teacher / classroom assistant Jack Watson.

"I was eating my egg sandwich," said (the) well-known amateur astronomer Patrick Lesse.

"I was eating my egg sandwich," said the well-known left back Anthony Dunne.

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