which sentence is correct? and why?

  1. The Shakespeare is rarely born.
  2. A Shakespeare is rarely born.

would you please clear the meaning and grammar rule?

2 Answers 2


As you probably already know, most proper nouns like people's names do not usually take an article.

Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon on 23rd April 1564

However, in this case you are using the proper noun as a metaphor for all possible similar things, places, or people. In this case what you mean to imply is:

A person as gifted as Shakespeare is rarely born.

Because this is a hypothetical, general concept, and not a specific, known example, use the indefinite article with the proper noun:

A Shakespeare is not born every day.

That being said, many proper nouns -- mostly places, titles, and events -- do include the definite article in the name itself, in which case you should include it when referring to that specific example:

The Statue of Liberty

The Queen of England

The Kentucky Derby

and so on. You can even use the definite and indefinite articles to create a contrast between the specific proper noun, and the concept represented by the proper noun:

Even if you can't visit the actual Taj Majal, you should try to see a Taj Majal -- which is to say, a man-made structure as stunning and grandiose -- at some point in your life.


We do not use 'the' before proper nouns, except to distinguish between identically named ones - e.g. the John Smith who lives in my street (and not any other); the London in Ontario, not the one in England. We use a definite article before a proper name (especially a famous or notable one) to say that someone or something else is equal or comparable to the famous person or thing. My son is a great writer. He may be a Shakespeare one day. My aunt is a singer but she is not an Adele or a Madonna.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .