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  1. The man turned traitor after he was arrested.
  2. He became a traitor.

Why is there an "a" in the second sentence but not in the first?

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  • To turn traitor refers to the commission of a treasonous act. To be a traitor is the state that follows after the act.
    – Robusto
    May 25, 2020 at 14:13

1 Answer 1

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1 The man turned traitor ([dative noun or] adjectival as complement) after he was arrested.

Compare "The man turned traitorous ( adjectival as complement) after he was arrested.

OED

Traitor 3. attributive [noun] or as adj. That is a traitor, traitorous.

1837 A. Tennent Vis. Glencoe 18 Some traitor spy, Meant to betray thee with a lie.

OED:

Turn 16.a. intr. To change one's course, so as to go in a different direction; to deviate.

For example: "Meanderings in the West" - Page 62 Elaine Seavey - 2006

At the town of Wisdom, our road turned west, climbing over St. Joseph Pass

turned west = turned to the west. (NB, here "west" is adverbial)

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  • What this answer doesn't point out is that this use of traitor is obsolete, except in this one idiom turn traitor. You can't say be/become/seem/appear traitor, at least, not without being archaic.
    – Colin Fine
    May 25, 2020 at 11:43

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