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English as a Second Language/The definite article with proper nouns


Dear Shannon,

I tried to get a reply from an expert here but they could not.
My question is: Why is it not correct to say “The love the singer Fairuz” (the+noun+proper noun) or “I am the teacher Antoine”. (Fairuz is the most famous Lebanese singer).

Wikipedia says "List of concerts performed by the Lebanese singer Fairuz". They used "the" before "Fairuz" but here there is a preceding adjective (Lebanese).
People say “the apostle Paul” and “the prophet Muhammad” and these have the same structure, namely the+noun+proper noun.

Please let know know the grammar/the rules.
Thanks & best regards,

You can in some cases.  It's just falling out of practice because it's a slightly more archaic way of speech (poetic, etc.)

The love the singer Fairuz expresses in her songs always overpowers me!
(A bit archaic, but not as much as the next example.  I believe it's because if there is any confusion with who a person is, you'll see this combination more often.  In this case, the direct object has been moved to the front of the sentence, but you still have the combination of the/singer/Fairuz as the subject).  

I am the teacher Antoine and I am the most powerful professor at this university.  (Yes, it does sound presumptuous and a little crazy, but that's the point.  If you use this structure in this way, it's a kind of poetic language, and seems odd because you obviously already know who you are.)

These days, if you do see this combination, you'll usually have additional adjectives with the common noun.  For example, in the Fairuz sentence above, it would be better to say: The love the (talented/Lebanese/romantic, etc.) singer Fairuz.....

I also believe this is only used in connection with great fame and popularity (but again, normally with additional adjectives):  the American president Obama, etc.

But unfortunately, I can't locate any rules at this moment, and there are a lot more exceptions to using this format than finding acceptable uses.  This will take some time to research ;)

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Shannon Cole


I can answer questions related to learning the English and Spanish language.


I have taught ESL and Spanish since 1998 at the university and middle school levels. I am a native of the U.S., and have taught in both the U.S. and Mexico.

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Georgia TESOL in Action (1999)

B.A. in Spanish; M.Ed. in Language Education

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