It is known that generally the definite article is not used with names of people. However, when the names are preceded by names of occupations then, as some sources say there must be used "the". For example: "The psychologist Mike Smith is going to deliver a speech." But some English speakers say that the article should be omitted. For instance: "Author Conor MacGregor is coming on" not "the author Conor MacGregor is coming on." So, could anyone tell me what variant is grammatical to use with "the" or without?

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  • @Laurel the accepted answer in your link was itself a link-only answer, often frowned upon at other StackExchange and StackOverflow sites. – Weather Vane Aug 27 '17 at 18:09
  • In what context did native speakers say they preferred “author ...” over “the author ...”? Leaving out the definite article makes it sound very much like a newspaper headline, which is not conversational English. Another explanation would be that they consider “author” to be a title much like “doctor” (see Peter C.’s answer). – Zachary Oct 27 '18 at 2:56

Your sources are correct; it should be: "The psychologist Mike Smith is going to deliver a speech."

Although using the definite article in this case sometimes sounds odd to American ears, when it is not a real title you should include it. This has to do with the concept of "false title". You can use the "Good morning" test, to determine the correct usage:

  • Good morning, Dr. Jones. ✔ → Dr. Jones is going to deliver a speech. ✔
  • Good morning, psychologist Smith. ✘ → Psychologist Smith is going to... ✘

The first one is okay, because "Doctor" is a real title; thus "Doctor Smith" does not require the definite article (indeed, must not have it). The second one, although acceptable to some, especially in AE, is not correct, because "pscyhologist" is a false title.

Linguists call this an anarthrous occupational nominal premodifier. The best analysis of this is by Greg Pullum at Language Log (2004-11-07).

  • I would add that whenever or not something is a false title can vary across linguistic communities. For example, there’s a school (in America) where teachers are called “Teacher [first name]” (e.g. “Teacher John”). While this sounded weird to me at first I got used to it after a while. – Zachary Oct 27 '18 at 2:52
  • … let me count the ways.   (1) Your first reference (Wikipedia) says “Some usage writers condemn this construction, and others defend it.” and “Style guides and studies of language have differed strongly on whether the construction is correct”, and names William Safire as a supporter of the construction.   (2) Your second reference (Language Log) (2a) belabors the fact that author Dan Brown uses the construction,  … (Cont’d) – Scott Oct 27 '18 at 6:03
  • (Cont’d) … (2b) says that “It’s not ungrammatical”, and they are only critiquing the style, and (2c) doesn’t seem to take itself very seriously. … … … So I believe that (TL;DR) the bottom line is that you are saying that it is a matter of opinion, and you are telling us your opinion. – Scott Oct 27 '18 at 6:03

I think it depends on the context. If the person is well known, I would write

The psychologist Mike Smith is going to deliver a speech.

This indicates that Mike Smith is the famous psychologist, not another Mike Smith. But if introducing someone who is not well known, I would skip the definite article.

Author Conor MacGregor is coming on.

In this case it advises us what Conor does, but he is not yet a household name.

  • Yes, as in when we meet a man named Donald Trump and say: Donald Trump? What, the Donald Trump? – Robbie Goodwin Aug 28 '17 at 19:00

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