Firstly, I know there are several questions on here about apostrophe-s, as well as capitalising mid-sentence, but I think this is quite unique.

I have the below sentence:

"With an expanding fanbase, collaborations with several artists and support from the likes of the Roots drummer Questlove, she is on her way to success."

Now, "The Roots" is a band i.e. a noun so shouldn't "the" be capitalised? When I looked at a similar sentence in the Guardian, they seem to not capitalise:

The afro comb has long been associated with the 1970s, the accessory of a hairstyle that represented counter culture and civil rights during an important era for both. These days it makes a regular appearance on mainstream TV in America – the Roots drummer Questlove is fond of wearing one while performing as part of the house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Second of all, since "the drummer" belongs to the band, does there need to be an apostrophe-s? Many publications seem to think so, such as the below from NME Magazine:

The Roots' drummer Questlove has apologised for an Instagram post which caused controversy and offended...

Lastly, if the above case is correct, shouldn't it be: "The Roots' drummer, Questlove, has..." with commas around his name, as in the following example:

The singer showed off his skills during an appearance on ‘The Tonight Show,’ and even took on The Roots’ drummer, Questlove, in an epic battle.

Similar occurrences would occur if talking about a band like "The Beatles", for instance.

I was tempted to just follow conventions of the Guardian, but there are a low of conflicting uses so I'm not sure. I suppose a solution could be to just omit "the" and say "...support from the likes of Roots drummer Questlove", but "the" is part of the actual title of the band and I would like to know for future reference too.

Your expertise is greatly appreciated!

  • It's not quite unique. The capitalization part is addressed here (the fact that it's mid-sentence isn't actually important in this case): english.stackexchange.com/questions/84288/…
    – herisson
    Sep 20, 2015 at 12:24
  • Actually, this question is not exactly the same, since it deals with the title being used as a modifier before another noun. I'll look to see if there are any other questions that are more similar.
    – herisson
    Sep 20, 2015 at 12:26
  • I would be very cautious about using The Guardian newspaper as an authority for anything connected with English. It's not jokingly called "The Grauniad" for nothing.
    – alephzero
    Sep 20, 2015 at 19:17

2 Answers 2


When you use a proper noun containing the as an adjective, you usually drop the. So you would say

former Roots member, Malik B,

and not "former The Roots member".

Similarly, even without a the in the band name, you could use the:

the Coldplay drummer, Will Champion.

So you can make a good case that the in the Roots dummer Questlove is not part of the name The Roots.

  • 1
    I agree with this analysis. Something similar happens when a person has occasion to refer to "a New York Times article" (as opposed to "an article in the/The New York Times"). In speech practically no one would say "a The New York Times article"), and in speech there is no way to confirm whether the speaker in the second instance means "the or The"; but realistically we wouldn't say "an article in the Saturday The New York Times" either, which leads me to think that the "the" is generally used with lowercase intent even in the "an article in the New York Times" instance.
    – Sven Yargs
    Sep 21, 2015 at 2:45

In this case I think pragmatism has to win out. I therefore go with the Guardian. In any case, I don't think the apostrophe is necessary.

Since the band's name is 'The Roots' then the Guardian might have written:

These days it makes a regular appearance on mainstream TV in America – the The Roots drummer Questlove is fond of wearing...

but the doubling effect of 'the The' is clumsy and unpronounceable.

With regard to adding commas in order to parenthesize 'Questlove'. I don't see the need. The original version is easily read and understood. Adding more and more punctuation can become counterproductive.

I hope this answer is useful. Comments are welcome if I need to change or improve it.

Note - 20 Sep 2015 - I have edited in deference to the comments below, which I see as being valid.

  • I think the Guardian makes most sense too, but I thought the band name should at least be capitalised: "These days it makes a regular appearance on mainstream TV in America – The Roots drummer Questlove is fond of wearing..." ?
    – cors85
    Sep 20, 2015 at 12:01
  • 2
    I just downvoted -- I disagree that the Guardian "should" have written "the The Roots" in any sense of the word "should," speaking strictly or laxly. Most style guides will have a section on how to deal with titles like these; in my experience they generally advise either using a single capitalized or a single uncapitalized definite article, never doubling (except in special cases like "The The"). The rest of your answer isn't particularly objectionable to me, although it basically seems like you're just giving your opinion.
    – herisson
    Sep 20, 2015 at 12:20
  • Sorry, I downvoted as well and then got distracted by something else before I could leave an explanation. My reasons are the same as those of @sumelic.
    – Tragicomic
    Sep 20, 2015 at 12:22
  • @sumelic Let’s say the lead singer in all bands is referred to as The Man (regardless of gender). What would be the name of the The The The Man? ;-) Sep 20, 2015 at 12:26
  • It's sort of a complicated issue, and I'm somewhat rethinking my downvote, but in any case it's too late now for me to reverse it. I'll just present some more examples to show what I mean, and I hope you can edit your answer to take them into account, allowing me to change my vote. We say 'the United States' and 'the ambassador' but 'the United States ambassador.' We say 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'the actor' but I would generally say 'the Lord of the Rings actor.' And so on. While 'the The Lord of the Rings actor' seems possible to me, it doesn't seem any more correct; would you agree?
    – herisson
    Sep 20, 2015 at 12:33

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