I am trying to write this sentence, but cannot decide if I should use a or the here:

It would be minutes before [a/the] slightly agitated Mrs. Smith finally finds him in the crowd.

If the should be used here, is there any scenario where a can be added before a specific person's name? I remember seeing such usage before, but my memory could be wrong.


Logically it seems as if it should be the.

But there is a well known literary device, perfectly idiomatic, which places the indefinite article in that position. One would use it where one was introducing for the first time, to the reader/listener that Mrs Smith was slightly agitated.

So if the reader is already aware that Mrs Smith is slightly agitated I would use the, if they do not I would use a.


The choice of article seems to me to reflect a different emphasis. "a slightly agitated Mrs. Smith" means, "Mrs. Smith, a slightly agitated person," while "the agitated Mrs. Smith" means the agitated version of Mrs. Smith in contrast to her normally cool and collected self.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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