In The Economist: Turmoil in Hong Kong:

On August 5th, at a press conference after two weeks hidden from public view, a rattled Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive, spoke of Asia’s financial hub being on the “verge of a very dangerous situation”.

Question 1: What does "a rattle person" mean here?

Question 2: Is the "a" here used as emphasis, like "a rattled President Obama"? (As an ell, this usage really confuses me.)

1 Answer 1


I notice that several online dictionaries do NOT include the word as used here, so looking it up would have been confusing. Use this definition: rattled

"Someone who's rattled feels confused and upset. When you're rattled, you're shaken and maybe a little fearful."

A person who's rattled might not be able to fully perform her duties or make decisions. She is distracted by the emergency.

EDIT: Addressing "a" as in "a rattled..."

We are introducing a descriptive phrase, an adjective. "A red engine" has a similar meaning; the engine is red. The "a" of "a red engine" is the indefinite article. However, with "a rattled Carrie Lam" we have the indefinite article introducing a specific person. I'm not sure that I can explain the rule for that, but it is common usage.

Using my own name, you could describe me as "a green Ed", "a rattled Ed", "a purple Ed". It's a way of introducing the adjective as it applies to the specific object or person. So, yes, "a" is providing emphasis.

  • 1
    Clear answer. Sir, could you help me with my another question which has been updated in my post? Sep 1, 2019 at 2:37
  • Answer edited. Both are good questions! Sep 1, 2019 at 4:17

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