Why is there no the before president and captain?

They elected him president.

She was made captain of the team.


1 Answer 1


The ‘Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English’ (LSGSWE) explains it thus:

When a predicative noun phrase names a unique role or job, either a zero article or the is used.

The is not normally found after words like elected (and re-elected) which show that someone has been appointed to an office. The LSGSWE’s own example is ‘Lukman was re-elected OPEC President in June.’ In other cases, however, it’s optional. The LSGSWE’s second example is: ‘Simon Burns is the chairman of the appeal board.’ That could equally well appear as ‘Simon Burns is chairman . . .’

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    One also commonly uses the verb "To make" intransitively, meaning "to attain the rank of," e.g. "I made captain," "I finally made partner." Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 11:04
  • For once, I've voted for closure on the grounds of there being a later, better duplicate. Longman's explanation is simplistic, and fails to distinguish the zero article from the null article (we had chicken for tea / they elected him President). Note that 'a' is a possible insertion without a vast semantic switch in the former, but 'the' in the latter. There is a gradience of definiteness / gravitas: zero ... indefinite ... definite ... null. Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 19:21

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