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I understand you can say either

I'm president of the United States.

or

I'm the president of the United States.

I also know of a rule that you may omit "the" in front of a title, position, etc.

Since the omission does not seem to depend on the style of the text, I'd like to know what is the reasoning behind such a usage and rule.

Is it because you tend to consider a title something like a proper noun?

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  • If "President" is used as a proper noun, the "P" should be capitalized, though. Dec 5, 2012 at 7:55

2 Answers 2

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

‘Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English'

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    I asked about the reasoning behind the rule, not the rule itself. And no one here seems to know any such reasoning or bother to think about it.
    – JK2
    Dec 10, 2012 at 6:33
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My intuition is that:

1) "I'm president of the United States!" would be chosen to put more focus or emphasis on the power invested in the role - and less on the person. Read: How could anyone question the power of the person (me in this case) holding this office. I am shocked!

while

2) "I'm the president of the United States" might be chosen to emphasize the singularity of the office holder. Read: There is no one other than me who can make this decision, since I have that power exclusively.

While either intuition may be wrong, the point is that you would have to look at how the sentence is used in the context of the conversation its a part of. Grammar choices are constrained by the context - not so much by simple 'style'. At the risk if being repetitive; the decision is a result of the speaker's intent in that context.

Now, whether the constraints of grammar might restrict what or how can think or speak. Well...that's a debate for another day.

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