English as a Second Language/Gender


QUESTION: Dear Shannon,

As you know, 'king' is a masculine and 'queen' is feminine, for example. What is the special case or situation, or when can we say "she is a king/the king"?

Best regards,
Antoine Ghannoum

ANSWER: We usually wouldn't.  In doing a quick search for the usage, I saw it used in a disparaging fashion by religious groups when they didn't like a woman taking the role of a man, for example as head of the household.   I have also seen this is in reference to pop star Jacqueline Feilich, who was the only woman recognized by Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. as a tribute artist to Elvis Presley.  She would be called "The King" because she is imitating and producing tribute songs to Elvis Presley, whose nickname was "The King."  

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QUESTION: Dear Shannon,

For God's sake, let me when to use 'the' with proper nouns and when not to use it. This very much troubles me and confuses me!

You said above, 'pop star Jacqueline Feilich', and not 'the pop star Jacqueline Feilich'. Why?

Some time ago, I saw the sentence "The artist David Hockney is a master of colour". So, they used 'the'.

Lots of thanks for your continuous guidelines.

Kind regards,
Antoine Ghannoum

You may use "the" here or leave it out.  If the omission confuses you, then go ahead and use "the" because it will not change the meaning.  Leaving out a definite article with one's profession is just a common convention when written in this way.  So, as far as I know, there is no rule here.  It's just an option in this situation.  

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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.

I am owner and operator of www.coleinstitute.com, an online language school.

Georgia TESOL in Action (1999)

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

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I have clients worldwide, some who want their documents proofread, and others who take lessons with me through the Internet. Some work at high-profile companies and government organizations. Besides the U.S. and Mexico, my recent students come from South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, Colombia, Russia, Italy, Paraguay, China, Japan, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.

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