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.


1 Answer 1


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.


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