"He was a brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the eldest son of former leader Kim Jong Il."

"James Chin is director of the Asia Institute."

I wonder why there are no articles before 'former leader' and 'director'. Could any native speaker help me understand the difference made when I say "the eldest son of the former leader" and "Chin is a director of.." instead?

  • 2
    "Former leader Kim Jong Il" <- The italicized part is known as a false title, which don't get articles. In the second sentence, using the indefinite article changes the meaning. – Laurel Feb 15 '18 at 3:49
  • How does it change the meaning? – Cold Lemon Feb 15 '18 at 4:00
  • That’s context; nothing else. You yourself posted not only "former leader" but also "leader" - didn't he, Laurel? FYI, nothing in that link is less dependent on context than all this here, which makes that whole kettle of fish pure red herring. “a brother of…” comes from the context. Elsewhere it would need “the” or no article at all. Either “North Korean leader” or “former leader" might take either or no article. So might “director of (many things)” but less obviously. “The eldest son” is a special case but that’s purely because “eldest” is extremely unusual in English numbering. – Robbie Goodwin Feb 27 '18 at 4:25

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