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English as a Second Language/The definite article with a common noun and a proper noun



Until now,I am not able to use the definite article properly.

The pop star Elvis Presetly, or pop star Elvis Prestly (no article), or Pop Star Elvis Presetly (capital letters)

The singer Fairuz, singer Fairuz (no article), or Singer Fairuz (capital s). (of course, she is a famous Lebanese singer).

Please please give a detailed answers with reasons why.

Thanks a lot.

Kind regads,
Antoine Ghannoum

PS Which is correct and why 'I read it in the magazine "Chess Inside", or in "Chess Inside" magazine.

ANSWER: Hello again Antoine,

One at a time:

* the pop star Elvis Presley; or Elvis Presley, the pop star  - you only have to capitalize his name (by the way, wasn't he a rock star actually?! but that's irrelevant here)

* the singer Fairuz; or better yet Fairuz, the singer (again, no need to capitalize anything but her name)


* in the "Chess Inside" magazine.

Please keep in mind that the above examples, while involving proper names, actually deal with the use of the definite article with common names: the pop star, the singer, the magazine. You would never say "the Elvis Presley" as there has only been one famous Elvis Presley, but you can say "The Elvis Presley impersonator had a very flashy costume" because again, "the" here refers to the impersonator.

The use of the definite article "the" with proper name is indeed one of the grammar points a lot of English as a second language speakers have trouble with, but with practice it gets better (like everything else).

Please find below some websites that should help you with the main rules that apply to the use of the definite article with proper English nouns.

Obviously if you have more specific questions or you need me to clarify any of those rules for you, feel free to follow up with me and I'll do my best to help you.

I hope this helps to some extent.

Looking forward to more of your questions.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I wonder why you accepted the pop star Elvis Prestly, but not the magazine 'Chess Inside'? What are the grammatical rules concerning the use of the definite article before a common noun followed by a proper noun? Thanks


to the best of my knowledge there are no such rules concerning the use of the definite article.

Also, back to your original question, "The magazine "Chess Inside" is a correct expression, but it depends on the context you are using it in. For ex:

The magazine "Chess Inside" is my favorite source of information.
The magazine "Chess Inside" was first published in 1980.

are both correct sentences.

I hope this helps.  

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Amy Baker


I can answer question about grammar, spelling, syntax, idioms, reading and/or writing that pertain to English as a Second Language. I am knowledgeable about both TOEFL and IELTS.


I'm a certified ESL teacher with 12 years of experience teaching K-12 and adults.

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