I am learning articles and trying to understand some edge cases.

Help me to decipher the role (the meaning) of articles in this sentence:

The lion is king of the jungle.

  1. The lion - is a generic reference to all lions as a class. It can be changed to Lions: Lions are kings of the jungle, the meaning will remain the same.
    • How did I understand it is the generic reference? Because it is the first occurrence of the word lion in the text, but it is preceded by the The article. It suggests the author wasn't implying a specific instance of lion (his pet, for example), but a species in the family Felidae.
    • A lion in this case is valid grammatically, but the meaning will change to "any member of the lion species", not the species as whole.
    • The article about generic nouns.
    • The definite article with a whole class.
  2. king of the jungle
    • king - in my opinion this noun should have the the article. Because it is singular and countable, therefore some article is necessary if it is not exception. The a article isn't suitable here, because the king noun is specified by the of the jungle construction: which king? - of the jungle, not any general king. May be the king title doesn't require an article, like breakfast, basketball, etc? But this rule says no - The definite article with titles and positions.
    • the jungle - the same meaning as in the The lion case. Generic reference to all jungles as a class, because it is the first occurrence of the jungle word in the text and has the the article. Also interchangeable with jungles.

Result: Lions (species, general) are the kings (title, specific) of jungles (land cover, general).

Two questions:

  1. Is my interpretation correct?

  2. Why doesn't king have the the article?

Note - The Oxford Dictionary says: "The lion is the king of the jungle."

  • 2
    This has already been addressed here at ell.stackexchange.com/questions/104195/… in Lawrence's answer. According to Masters, the null article (not the zero article) is even more definite than the definite article. Like the zero article, it is 'invisible'. Sep 19, 2019 at 18:24
  • He must be king of the hill.
    – Lambie
    Sep 20, 2019 at 13:13

1 Answer 1


All the grammar points presented are fine.

But in this case, please note that "king of the jungle" is a set phrase and therefore does not need an article, as in:

She is queen for the day. [an old TV show]. Please note though: It is not a mistake to say: The lion is the king of the jungle. or: Lions are the kings of the jungle. But you lose the edginess of the set phrase. :)

This is just one of those terrible exceptions that make English a b****.

  • I looked into the Oxford Dictionary, it says: "The lion is the king of the jungle." Also, I understood why the a article isn't suitable here. I added these notes into the question.
    – MiniMax
    Sep 19, 2019 at 17:33
  • 1
    I said: "The lion is the king of the jungle." is fine. Why repeat it?? Also, I answered your question. "The lion is a king in the jungle" is fine, too, but means something else. It means he is not a king elsewhere. I really don't know what else you want.
    – Lambie
    Sep 19, 2019 at 17:39
  • 1
    "Why repeat it" - because it is additional information to your answer. You said - I found the confirmation and add reference. It is useful for someone else, who will read this page in the future. I often do so.
    – MiniMax
    Sep 19, 2019 at 17:45
  • 1
    No, it is not additional information to my answer. It is my answer. I did not say "I found confirmation". The reference is my own knowledge, which is why I posted the answer. But here is a reference for you: king of the hill, for example, which functions the exactly same way: advanceinenglish.com/…
    – Lambie
    Sep 20, 2019 at 13:12
  • 1
    @joy2020 The lion is a king in the jungle but just a wild animal in a zoo. //He's a pain in class but an angel at home.
    – Lambie
    Apr 5, 2021 at 14:04

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