Prompted by comments against a previous ELL question about an Indian English usage, I found myself reading an article in The Times of India with the title Kidnapped doctor couple returns home, which ends with...

The IMA Secretary profusely thanked different organisations for showing solidarity with doctor and his wife in their hour of crisis. [emphasis mine]

I've no idea what status that publication has, either with the general public in India or more specifically with those in the educated classes who speak "good, fluent, native or near-native speaker" English.

My reason for looking at the publication in the first place was to satisfy myself that IE does indeed use the semi-archaic form thrice where most mainstream Anglophone countries now use three times. Many features of IE are similar, in that they preserve usages which have long since been abandoned in their country of origin (normally, Britain).

The native Anglophones who influence[d] uptake of English in India are almost exclusively drawn from the middle/upper classes (who once did use forms like thrice, do the needful, etc.). But the missing article (...solidarity with the doctor...) would only ever have occurred in dialectal/uneducated speech in Britain, so it seems likely to me this usage arose independently in India.

I realise this question risks being Primarily Opinion-based, but I'm kinda hoping there will be at least some native speakers of IE here on ELL (brought up speaking English as a mother-tongue, not just fluent, well-educated in English). What I'd like to know is whether they would consider the usage cited above "correct/acceptable" in the (relatively formal?) context of such a publication.

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    Is it a special case with "doctor"? Would they say "with accountant"? Compare "doctor couple".
    – TimR
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 13:52
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    My mother tongue is not English, but I am used to hearing or reading IE. When I read that quoted sentence I really thought there it has to have a "the" before "doctor". I agree with what you said about IE, that it in general follows BrE, and still preserves usage that is long gone. For example in formal context it's advised to write "He doesn't bother about their being in the party.", and if anyone writes "He doesn't bother about them being in the party.", he/she is considered wrong. (cont...) Commented May 27, 2015 at 14:28
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    (...cont) This happens in examinations. I have checked many books published here about exams here and they say the same thing, same advice. But as you are very much aware that both the sentences are correct. The Times of India is a very respected and widely used English daily in here, and their audiences vary from school students to highly professionals. Even in my home this paper comes daily. And I have noticed such errors are occurring in their print recently. Commented May 27, 2015 at 14:30
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    Given that every other article in the link is in the proper place, it seems far more likely to me that the newspaper made an error. The Guardian newspaper in the UK is a well respected publication targeted at an educated audience, but so notorious for misprints that it has the nickname 'The Grauniad'.
    – ssav
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 14:37
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    It's only an assumption on my part, but I suspect Indians ((true IE speakers, I mean) might be no more likely than BrE or AmE speakers to drop the article with, say accountant. That's because it would be quite reasonable even in "standard" English to actually address a doctor that way - But what am I to do, Doctor? I simply can't afford the medicine you say I need!. But it would sound decidedly weird to use that form with accountant, shopkeeper, mechanic, etc. Commented May 27, 2015 at 17:17

3 Answers 3


Hindi doesn't use articles and it is widely spoken as both a first and second language in India. Other Indian languages in the same family might be the same but I can't say for sure. So it seems very natural to assume that this usage arose there as a common mistake in translation that became standard usage over time.

Having lived in India and trained Indians in skills other than English it's been my experience that people there are sometimes perplexed when corrected on these kinds of mistakes that have become so common in India that they are in effect standard. Another example, "One of my cousin called me yesterday."

One might argue that because these mistakes are so ubiquitous they really indicate that the language is changing and developing into its own dialect. This is a question for linguists that I'm not qualified to discuss any more than I have already. However, I would point out that there are almost no native speakers of English in India. With the possible exception of some highly educated enclaves in big cities, English is learned only as a second language, albeit from an early age.


I don't know about Indian English specifically, but many job roles can sometimes be used to "name" a person. These are most often personal care or mentoring types of job roles:

Please tell nurse I'm ready for my medicine.
We asked teacher to explain that to us.

This isn't common in AmE, though, and would be especially odd in this context, where it doesn't seem like the IMA secretary is actually talking about his or her personal doctor.


This is a mistake. The is supposed to be in front of doctor.

My guess is that is the initial revision of the sentence had a proper noun in that spot, which doesn't require an article, and then was later edited in place (maybe with search-and-replace) to include "doctor" instead.


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