If he had not been a film star, he would not have become President.

In my opinion, "a President" is correct. Examples:

"My dream is to be a teacher"
"My dream is to be a President"

Which is correct usage? President or a President?


3 Answers 3


If you are referring to the President of the United States (or of any country, for that matter), you have to bear in mind that there is only one of them at a time. Therefore 'President', without the indefinite article, is sufficient to describe him (or one day, her): it is an official title as well as a descriptive term.

If someone says "I want to become a president" or "My dream is to be a president", the implication is that they don't care which country they become president of.

  • I nearly downvoted. The co-occurrence of "I want to become a president" / "My dream is to be a president" and 'Erik Kowal' triggered a knee-jerk reaction. Shows how important context is. // If it weren't such a politically frenzied time over there, I'm sure you'd have pointed out that the determiner distinction applies in other domains too: [University of Alberta] ... 'Roderick Fraser became President in 1995' [internet] / [The Presidents of FSU] ... Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte became president in 1994 [internet]. (Apparently, though, capitalisation is a style choice here.) Nov 5, 2014 at 12:26
  • @EdwinAshworth - I would stumble in the endeavour to occupy the Oval Office; not only in sympathy with your knee-jerk reaction to the lame-ntable conjunction of circumstances you described, but because of my moral lapse in not being a natural-born American, and hence my ineligibility for the presidential office — for which I suspect I am also too square: QED. (When will I ever learn?)
    – Erik Kowal
    Nov 5, 2014 at 12:47
  • Perhaps Governor of Arkansas? You could go on to make action movies. Are you at least allowed to vote against people yet? Nov 5, 2014 at 14:09
  • One can be President of a corporation or a president of a corporation as well. It depends if the usage is for a title or position.
    – SrJoven
    Nov 5, 2014 at 14:32

The article "a" indicates the noun is one of multiple possible exemplars. There's only one President of the United States (POTUS) at a time, so the correct article, if an article is used, is "the".

If I saw "a president", I'd assume the person was talking about a business, since many of those use that title, and almost all have the similar title of "Vice-President".

As for leaving the "the" off... any supposed rules for when "the" is used are simply justifications. The real answer is that when talking about the POTUS in this particular context (to become POTUS) people almost always do not use any article whatsoever, so that is the correct way to say it. English is a language used by humans, not a programming language with consistent rules so that machines can easily verify it.


This sentence speaks of becoming the President of the United States of America:

"If he were to have not been a film star, he would not have become President."

This sentence speaks of becoming any president in the world:

"If he were to have not been a film star, he would not have become a president."

  • what is "were to" ? Nov 5, 2014 at 10:46

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