I've encountered many phrases like

It was performed by band the Beatles
It was made by machine
...which was built by architect [name]

So, I guess when we want to state that something came into existence (or something was done to it) by someone, we omit the definite article before that someone, is that right? Could you please give the exact rule on this topic?


Whether the is required in your examples depends on the context:

It was made by machine

is a way of saying that it was made mechanically and not by hand.

It was made by a machine

means that it was made by a machine that has not been identified.

It was made by the machine

means that it was made by a machine that you have already identified.

You cannot say: It was designed/built by architect without an article. Either: It was designed by an architect (who has not been identified) Or: It was designed by the architect (whom you have already referred to)

Thus you could write either: It was designed by John Smith, (who is) an architect, or: It was designed by John Smith, the architect (which assumes that John Smith is well known as an architect.

The same rule applies to band. Music is not performed by band, but either by a band (unidentified) or the band (already identified).

  • 1
    You might find the phrase "by band The Beatles" in a headline, a title, or a picture caption: these have a special grammar which allows some articles to be omitted. But not in normal prose. – Colin Fine Feb 27 '17 at 13:15
  • I don't understand your explanation for sentences 1 and 3. You seem to be saying that they are not correct. The OP asks about "it was built by architect John Smith", not "it was built by architect". "It was built by architect John Smith" sounds fine in my ears. – Klas Lindbäck Feb 27 '17 at 13:22
  • @KlasLindbäck There are certain professions in which the position becomes part of the honorific. Thus we talk of President John Smith or Doctor John Smith. But we don't talk of Architect John Smith, Lawyer John Smith or Surgeon John Smith. In these instances we conventionally speak of the architect/lawyer/surgeon, John Smith. You don't have to but it's the norm. – Ronald Sole Feb 27 '17 at 19:27
  • I agree that the architect is more common, but I have encountered the form architect John Smith enough times that it doesn't set off my "weird grammar" radar. I mainly consume American English if that is a factor. – Klas Lindbäck Feb 28 '17 at 8:49
  • Concerning bands, I believe I read it somewhere on Wikipedia, so it's neither a headline, nor a mistake, since these guys, I reckon, look after the grammar quite fervently. But without proof my statement here sounds unconvincing, I'll write back as soon as I find the article. – Rusty Mar 2 '17 at 15:25

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