Some of you told me that when we put an article before president (a), we are referring to a specific position, but when we don't put an article, that means we are referring to a general position.

Trump was elected president.

Is president here is a general position?

  • 1
    Can you add more context? Your example seems to be shortened at best. Your meaning may be like "Trump was elected (to become) President." Anyway, titles tend to follow conventional usage rather than hard rules.
    – user3169
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 5:01
  • In that answer, did I use the phrase "a general position"? No. Did I use the word "role" multiple times? Yes. You must get your head around the concept of "role". When we say "he was elected president" we mean that voters wanted him to assume the role of president, to occupy the presidency.
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 12:21

1 Answer 1


In the Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English, we read:

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

Custom and convention in English are to use the zero article before predicative nouns after verbs like elect and appoint, and other verbs when the meaning of the verb is the assumption of an elective office, named position within an organization, or other clearly defined role. In these cases, the name of the role is treated almost as if it were a proper noun. For instance:

  • He was elected President
  • She was made CEO of the corporation
  • He was appointed chairman of the commission
  • She was proclaimed Queen
  • She became Speaker of the House
  • I will take the child as ward

As is sometimes the case in English (as in any language!) there is no "grammatical" explanation for this custom. There are many common English expressions in which the zero article is used, and there is no "rule" that can be applied to determine where the zero article is expected and where it is not. See for instance:

  • He was taken prisoner
  • She is chef, owner, and head dishwasher
  • He took office
  • Can't find the quote in LSGSWE. Which page is that? Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 6:42
  • @user178049 I searched high and low too, and in vain, but I find it quoted so often from that source by Barrie England in ELU, and with no demurrers, that I decided to credit it without a citation. An earlier edition? A fabrication? Hard to disern a motive! You will admit that it sounds like a pronouncement out of a grammar. Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 6:47
  • I think yes, it's from LSGSWE, but still I'm sure. I think I read (almost) thoroughly that book but I never heard of anything akin to that. O_O. I hope H&P (2002) could be the back-up. Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 7:10
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    @BavyanYaldo - I'm afraid it isn't that simple. Some matters of grammar can't be captured completely in some succinct rule; if someone tried to give you one, someone else could probably come up with several exceptions.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 9:21
  • 1
    @BavyanYaldo You can see that I put the word "rule" in quotation marks in the answer above. I did that to imply what J.R. says in his comment. Just like your own language, English has many usages that don't conform to any "rules" at all! The use of articles (or of no article at all) is challenging, but don't give up. Don't rely so much on rules—remember, you don't consult a "rule book" when you speak your own language! Keep reading English, writing English, speaking and listening to English, and if you persist, eventually you will "get it". Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 16:24

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