Why is it unnecessary to put an indefinite article before the word manager in the following sentence:

She took over as manager when Mr Hunt retired.

Why is it different from the case like this:

She is a manager.

  • 1
    Basically because in the first sentence you're not referring to her as a generic manager, you're stating which role she filled in the company. If anything, since you're specifically stating who she replaced, if you were going to use an article I'd use "the", but in this case no article is required. Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 9:21
  • @John Clifford, thank you for your reply. But why is no article required? What is the specific rule here?
    – Konstantin
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 9:24
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    The reason I didn't post it as an answer is because honestly I'm not 100% sure of the specific rule involved. It's just one of those things I know without thinking about it. I'll see if I can find any sources that explain it, though! Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 9:25
  • 1
    Please visit English Language Learners
    – Kris
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 12:02
  • 1
    This Q. is better asked on English Language Learners -- it may have already been dealt with there. See also: english.stackexchange.com/search?q=zero-article
    – Kris
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 12:06

1 Answer 1


Your first example contains what's known as a zero article and uses manager as a job title.

David Appleyard's Guide to Article Usage in English notes that:

An article is unnecessary in official job titles if there is only one person holding this position at any given time.
Example: George Osborne is (the) Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Although there may be multiple managers, of which Mr Hunt was one, the only manager position "she" could "take over" (given this limited context) was Mr Hunt's. This 'rule' is therefore applicable. If the sentence was "She became [a] manager when Mr Hunt retired.", that is, she became one of many managers but she was not necessarily filling Mr Hunt's vacated position, then the version with the indefinite article sounds better (and is consistent with the fourth of Appleyard's linked 'rules' under The Indefinite Article).

Your second example uses manager as a countable noun. The same guide notes that:

The indefinite article a or an is placed in front of a countable noun that is being mentioned for the very first time. Once introduced, all further references to it can be preceded by the definite article the.
Example: I have two cars: a Ford and an Audi. The Ford is white and the Audi is silver.

  • An article is unnecessary in the given sentence, even if there are several persons holding this position at any given time.
    – Kris
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 12:03
  • The present case of the OP is one kind of zero-article use.
    – Kris
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 12:05
  • @Kris On further thought, in a one-of-many variant of the first example, I'd favour the a manager version. I agree with your second comment, though.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 13:00

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