The following are sentences I picked up from newspaper articles.

  1. "A smiling Ichiro Suzuki(a popular baseball player) talked at the interview through an interpreter."
  2. "The 22-year-old XXX (a popular golf player) is a 12-time champion on the International Golf tour."

I don't understand why they put an article "a" in the sentence 1) and "the" in the sentence 2). Please help me understand why. Thank you in advance.

marked as duplicate by Matt E. Эллен, Armen Ծիրունյան, JeffSahol, MrHen, mplungjan Oct 29 '13 at 14:32

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.


The use of "a [adjective] [person]" usually indicates that the descriptor being applied is transitory or changeable. In this construction, we view the person a member in the set of all possible modes that the person can be:

When we arrived, we met a smiling Ichiro Suzuki.

When we arrived, we met a hungry Ichiro Suzuki.

When we arrived, we met a confused Ichiro Suzuki.

However, you wouldn't normally say:

A tall Ichiro Suzuki greeted us.

A 22-year-old Ichiro Suzuki greeted us.

Height and age are (more or less) fixed attributes. If you do use the "a [adjective] [person]" construction with a mostly-fixed property, you call attention to the mutability of the property. For example:

John Smith hasn't always been such a clean-cut fellow... I still remember that night ten years ago, when I saw a 17-year-old John Smith being hauled by the neck into a police car.

Here, we mean I saw the 17-year-old form of John Smith, from the set of John Smith at all his possible ages. Or:

I my cousin Kenny has always been a little short for his age, so I was a little shocked when a six-foot-tall Kenny greeted me at the airport -- the kid had certainly hit his growth spurt!

Here, again, we call attention to the mutability of Kenny's height and refer to a particular form of Kenny that is six feet tall.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.