Someone asked why we can't use as the president/as a president in this sentence.

When teachers were upset about the stringent accountability measures Barack Obama imposed on them as president.

And can we apply this grammar rules with other professions like teachers/principals/managers/etc? Thank you!

2 Answers 2


As president here is a specific use of as which means "in one's capacity as". As far as I can tell, it should be used with specific positions within an organisation, and not general occupations.

So you can't say:

  • As teacher, I am giving you two weeks' detention!

But you can say:

  • As headmaster/principal of this school, I am hereby implementing these new rules.

In a large company with hundreds of managers, you can't say:

  • As manager, I think our employees have been very impressive this year

but you can say

  • As a manager, I think...


  • As Regional Manager for the Southwest, I think...

So far, the difference is hopefully clear. But with the, I think things become a bit fuzzier. My intuition is that you can usually substitute as the x for as x, although there may be small differences in style / pragmatics:

  • As the headmaster, ...

roughly equals

  • As headmaster, ...

(The stylistic differences may also depend on the person talking. So in the first person, both of the above examples sound fine, but if it was a third person writing a news report about the headmaster, I prefer As headmaster, [he implemented these rules]...)


This was presumably written during Obama's presidency so we can use the present tense to explain it.

In this piece, Barack Obama is president of the USA. The story is about teachers in the USA during his term of office. He is not just "a" president to them, he is "the" president, or simply President (the name of his office).

If you describe Obama as "a" president, then you are saying that he is one among a number of presidents. This is of course true.

Thus Obama was a president of the USA, as were George Washington, George Bush, Richard Nixon etc.

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