Something which I still couldn't understand is the rule of using "a" in a sentence.

For example:

"As a programmer, I'm responsible for... "


"As programmer, I'm responsible for"

Which one is correct?


When speaking about your profession you always use an article.

Some examples

  1. I am a doctor. ("I am doctor" is incorrect -- so is "As doctor" -- it should be "as a doctor")
  2. He is an engineer.
  3. As a soldier, I have gone through the toughest times in life.
  4. I am telling you this as a friend and not as a brother.
  5. As a father, I know how it must feel.

Let's see some questions

If someone asks you

  1. Are you a programmer? (Here they are asking you a question about your profession)

But when someone asks you

  1. Are you the programmer? (Here they are not asking you about your profession but a specific task that you are working on - like "Are you the one who has designed a particular application?")

Another example

  1. Are you a doctor? (They want to know your profession.)

  2. Are you the doctor? (Here they don't want to know your profession, but they might just be wanting to know whether you are the doctor of a specific patient.)

So when talking about anyone's profession you use an article (a, an, or the depending on the case -- with an exception like when greeting "Good morning, Doctor" here no article used)

  • 6
    You might also mention that there's a distinction between "profession" and "post": "In my capacity as President, I'm responsible for.." – CowperKettle Nov 20 '14 at 15:32
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    certainly. But this question is like 'eternal'. So it might take too many pages to explain it extreme details. Here i just tried to be as brief as possible. @CopperKettle – Leo Nov 20 '14 at 16:43
  • "I'm a doctor, not a linguist!" Bones McCoy, probably. But on a serious note, you do not need to have a in there all the time. It depends on the context... – corsiKa Nov 20 '14 at 18:02
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    Also, "Are you the doctor" might not know if you're a doctor or not. They may know there's one doctor on duty and want to know if you're that doctor. You might be a receptionist, or just a dapper looking fellow in a labcoat. – corsiKa Nov 20 '14 at 18:08
  • yeah that is correct @corsiKa – Leo Nov 20 '14 at 18:13

Leo and corsiKa have made excellent distinctions, but I would like to add that

  1. When referring to a profession, you would use an article.

  2. When referring to a title, it only makes sense to neglect the article if the title is unique in the given context. In this case, though, there is an implied "the" article.

    • You would say "As [the] programmer" when addressing the members of a project on which you are the only programmer or in any other situation in which you are the only programmer present.

    • If you are one of multiple programmers in a room, but are in charge of the group, you might say "As [the] lead programmer".

    • If your position is not unique, you can also refer to the group collectively by saying "As [the] programmers".

  • I think your first bullet would still work if you were the only programmer in the meeting you said it in. – corsiKa Nov 20 '14 at 18:52
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    @corsiKa that it would. You certainly could say "As a programmer" if you were the only programmer in the meeting, but you are still referring to your profession, not your title. – Luke Nov 20 '14 at 19:14
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    What I mean is, if you were the only programmer in a meeting, you could say "as programmer". – corsiKa Nov 20 '14 at 22:12
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    @corsiKa Ah, yes. You are correct as your title is indeed unique in that context as well. – Luke Nov 20 '14 at 22:16
  • Even if it's unique, I'm wondering if it may more correct to say "As the programmer" or similar. Think of a company meeting, where you might hear "As the CEO, it's my job to..." - which is correct, but over time people have shortened it to "As CEO, it's my job to..." – mpontillo Nov 20 '14 at 23:46

Either is acceptable. Consider the following scenario, on a boat.

Sailor: Should we pursue the enemy ship? Or head to base for repairs.

Captain: As captain, I have a duty to protect my crew. We can't go into battle in our current condition. Head back to base.

Now, he could say "As the captain" or even "As a" captain" but he doesn't necessarily have to. The same is true in your programmer scenario. I would say using the article is more popular, but at the same time, when trying to sound more 'prim and proper', the article is often omitted.

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    The distinction is that in this case captain is not his profession, it is his title or position. Imagine the doctor who has been conscripted to be the royal executioner: As Executioner, it is my duty to shoot this prisoner. As **a** doctor, I cannot take a life. – Adam Nov 20 '14 at 18:19
  • If that were the case, it would be as Captain not as captain. Your As a doctor statement is true, you wouldn't say as doctor generally, but remember that programmer is more than the profession in this case. It's also a title. – corsiKa Nov 20 '14 at 18:23
  • "Programmer" is not a title. – Lightness Races with Monica Nov 20 '14 at 18:49
  • It is a title, it simply isn't an exclusive or prestigious title. If you have boxes on an org chart for a project, and you get put into the programmer box, your title, in relation to that project, is programmer. And as programmer, you are responsible for ... that stuff, etc. – corsiKa Nov 20 '14 at 18:51
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    consider the following scenario, on a boat. [boards boat] [considers] – Luke Nov 20 '14 at 19:18

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