According to my Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, the word "Professor" is a countable noun. However, one of its examples reads:

professor a teacher in a college or university. In Britain, a professor is a high-ranking university teacher, especially one who is head of a department.

She was professor of linguistics at Cambridge University.

"She was professor ..." or "She was a professor ..."? Is this a difference between American and British usage?

Another Example from a website of Prof. Tony McEnery: Link

I am Distinguished Professor of English Language and Linguistics at Lancaster University.

Thank you in advance.

  • 1
    One professor, two professors, three professors. Countable. Omitting an article does not make a noun uncountable, and adding an article does not make it countable. What makes it countable or uncountable is whether you can or cannot count it. As to why and when the article can be omitted in the context at hand, see the answer below as well as in the question I am closing this a duplicate of.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 19:05
  • See Masters' article linked to here (Why do people [sometimes] omit the definite article? ... the null article (not the 'zero article'), as in 'He was crowned King'. Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 19:14
  • Looking at your examples of apparent exceptions to the apparent rule of ‘countness’ arises. I have an idea why this may come about. In the US, the word ‘professor’ does indeed refer to a (tenured) university teacher and researcher. This has not been so in Britain till comparatively recently. ‘Professor’ was the title of a very senior (often head of) a subject or faculty. The lecturers are called ‘lecturers’ or (in the oldest, collegiate, universities, ‘fellows’ (a translation of the Latin ‘socius’ - plural ‘socii’). This has for some time been changing but is still confusing.
    – Tuffy
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 22:15

1 Answer 1


Yes and No.

To speak from experience:

I was a lecturer in biochemistry.

(There were many of us.)

But at one stage of my career:

I became the Grieve Lecturer in Physiological Chemistry.

A honorific position with a single occupant. The definite article is often omitted, so I could say:

I was Grieve Lecturer in Physiological Chemistry

But never “a Grieve Lecturer”.

Similarly in my university the two chairs (professorships) of biochemistry had specific titles, the Gardiner chair and the Cathcart chair. One might refer to someone as being “Gardiner Professor of Biochemistry” or “The Gardiner Professor of Biochemistry”.

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