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?


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.

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