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“To be elected chairman” vs. “to be elected the chairman”
Omission of “the” in “elected him president” and “made captain”

Dr. Peter Spence, ______ headmaster of the school, told us, “a fifth of pupils here go on to study at Oxford and Cambridge.”

Does it matter whether I add a "the" before "headmaster" here?

marked as duplicate by Matt E. Эллен, James Waldby - jwpat7, kiamlaluno, waiwai933 Aug 19 '12 at 4:52

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It is possible to omit the definite article when a noun phrase names a particular role or job and when it is the complement (or subject predicative) of a copular verb such as be, so we can certainly say, for example, He was headmaster of Hogwarts. When the noun phrase is, as in your example, the subject of a clause, the omission of the definite article is more doubtful. As there is no harm in including it, you might as well use it. If you omit of the school, as you might want to, the definite article is obligatory in most contexts.

  • So there is no definite answer to definite article question then. – Kris May 16 '12 at 7:41
  • 1
    @user20908: Well, I could, I suppose, just have answered 'No'. – Barrie England May 16 '12 at 8:52

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