I saw this in a quiz on Stuff:

Who is Greek president?

Surely the word "the" should be in there somewhere? But I get the feeling I've heard things like "US President Barack Obama" instead of "The US President Barack Obama", so I'm curious if this is actually a valid construct.

  • That would make me ask, "Of which Country?". Some countries do not have a leader who was born a citizen, and who might be referred to as 'the (Nationality That They Were) president' (most probably by their opponents). OTOH "Who is is the current president of Greece?", is unambiguous (unless there is civil war, or an election hanging in the balance..). – Andrew Thompson Jun 20 '12 at 7:28
  • Here's an interesting question: can this sentence be construed in such a way that it is grammatically correct? As a native speaker, the answer seems to be no, but maybe I'm missing some offbeat potential meaning. Maybe if "Greek president" we're some kind of a name (but then I would expect the "p" in "president" to be capitalized). – asmeurer Jun 20 '12 at 9:47
  • or if there were a comma after Greek - like "who (here) is Greek, President?" - asking the President who is Greek :) – Mark Mayo Jun 20 '12 at 16:27

There's actually a difference (or at least a distinction) between US President Barack Obama and The US President Barack Obama. In the former, the job title is being used as an attributive adjective phrase, similar to Six-foot-tall Barack Obama. The latter should strictly have a comma (The US President, Barack Obama) to show that the reference is to the holder of the office,and the name is just for identification. But it's very easy, particularly in journalism, to blur the distinction.

  • 1
    Ah well explained. That was my feeling that there was a structure that permitted this. The website has a facebook group dedicated to picking up its many, many, MANY spelling and grammatical issues, and I was going to post in there and didn't want to look foolish ;) – Mark Mayo Jun 19 '12 at 23:20

Yes, it should. That is either a misprint, or written by somebody who is not a native English speaker.

The other example you give is different: it is referring to an individual, and there is the choice between treating "US President" as a modifier and treating it as part of the name.

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