Why is the definite article used in this sentence?

An alternative in international commercial arbitration (whether or not the underlying dispute relates to construction) is for the parties to agree that the tribunal can appoint the expert or experts.

Shouldn't the indefinite article be used here? Or is "the expert" referring to some idealized abstract generic expert, so to speak? The word "experts" surely isn't, because there is no article at all before it.

P.S. I've also seen this construction (e.g. "the X or X's" where X is a noun) used with nouns other than "expert" a few times.

  • From: whoswholegal.com/news/features/article/1848/…
    – Phil
    Aug 4, 2014 at 18:39
  • @Phil sure the context is important, but not here. Take a look at this question's accepted answer. The exact same phrase is used there, even though the author of the answer isn't reffering to any particular expert.
    – user132181
    Aug 4, 2014 at 18:45
  • The context helped me understand that the usage here is that expert is a title in the tribunal with associated duties. It is the same as saying director or president.
    – Phil
    Aug 4, 2014 at 18:48

1 Answer 1


Further down in the article we can see the definition of an expert and what the position entails.

"The mission requires the expert to take charge of the proceedings, identify the issues, set out a procedure and timetable and then work to it."

The definite article is used to refer to "expert" as a position in an arbitration proceeding. This usage would be the same as: "The board members decided to appoint John as the CEO".

"The" covers both expert and experts. You can read the sesntence like this: "can appoint the (expert or experts)". The writer is simply trying to make it clear that a tribunal may have more than one expert if the situation requires.

  • Thanks, now I finally see that the article here is applied to both "expert" and "experts". But what about the example I've given in my comment above? The author there surely isn't reffering to any position in an arbitration, the phrase is used rather informally.
    – user132181
    Aug 4, 2014 at 18:51
  • That case is simpler: "the expert" is the person who made the conjecture. In this case "the expert" is the person appointed to fulfill the mission of "the expert".
    – Phil
    Aug 4, 2014 at 18:55

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