Suppose in a book there is a character named Alex, and he has a beard. There are no other Alexes mentioned. Which variant is correct?

1. "Hello," said bearded Alex.


2. "Hello," said the bearded Alex.

I lean towards the first variant, because it seems to me that we use "bearded" here just to remind the reader of that characteristic to make the mental image of the character more definite, and "Alex" itself does not need an article.

  • Why would you say either? They're both grammatical and have roughly the same meaning. Adding the definite article just makes it clear that you're pointing to one specific Alex (the one with the beard). But, unless you want to differentiate Alex from another Alex, it seems an odd place to slip in an adjective. – David M Oct 28 '19 at 2:50
  • I'm translating a story, and that's the author's writing style. I have no choice on the matter (although I do think this usage of an adjective makes sense). The question is about the article. – fjarri Oct 28 '19 at 2:55
  • 1
    Well . . . if Alex has recently grown a beard or just shown up with one for the first time, you would say a bearded Alex. – David M Oct 28 '19 at 2:57
  • The definite performs the same function as in any other context. Why the question? Its presence or absence depends on the contextual semantics. No offence, but think over it. – Kris Oct 28 '19 at 11:37
  • 1
    Voting to close this question as NARQ. – Kris Oct 28 '19 at 11:38

While both are grammatical, the second is more idiomatic in this case. In ordinary prose, "the" is used for most attributively-modified proper nouns. There are some exceptions (eg "good old Mr Neave"), and titles and nicknames are more likely to drop the "the", but these don't apply here.

As such, "said bearded Alex" sounds like Alex's beardedness is a defining characteristic, perhaps to the point of being an actual nickname, while "said the bearded Alex" simply translates to "said Alex, who is bearded".

| improve this answer | |

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