I work with people from various nationalities and I've noticed over the years that they use The when referencing someone by name, for example

Today I was talking to THE Bob about lunch.

Has anyone noticed this? It's curios and wondered if it might have something to do with their native language.

I work with Hindus and east Asians.

  • A large number of native speakers do this too. It is just a figure of speech.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 14:22
  • 1
    @Chenmunka could you explain more about this figure of speech and the contexts it's used in?
    – Dan Getz
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 15:19
  • How are we supposed to know why some non-native speakers speak as they do? Yes it might have something to do with their native language, it might not.
    – user6951
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 15:39
  • Where you may have more than one Bob to whom you may be referring. Often The Bob is used to ensure the listener knows who you mean. It does of course require both parties to have an understanding of who that is.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 15:44
  • 2
    Your sentence is a bit off. I agree with @Chenmunka, the could happen to appear in some contexts. But the example you've provided is very unlikely to be said in a grammatical sentence.
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 15:46

2 Answers 2


This can be a part of speech in some languages and as such, learners of English may naturally carry this across when speaking whether they know this is wrong or not. This can be because when we speak, generally our language is being produced spontaneously and sometimes traits of our mother tongue can slip in. This is certainly true of my Catalan students of English (in Catalan the definite article precedes people's names).


I've been waiting for someone to answer this, and have been asking a few of my coworkers if they posted it ;-)

  • I've noticed myself prefixing the before names. I make mistakes in English mostly when I'm stressed beyond a level. I can't explain this particular one as anything more than an inertia in thought process. Maybe I used the in my previous sentence or sometime recent vocabulary.
  • Another way I could justify Indian and Chinese folks saying this could be that words like the are easier to pronounce amongst the articles and closer to the native accents. Same way some words are easier for americans to say like Ummm... before sentences.

Btw I'm Hindu, its a religion and it has absolutely nothing to do with it. What you might be referring to are the people from non-english speaking asian countries.

  • HA, no it wasn't your coworkers, it was me. I meant Indian (not native american)
    – KLC
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 2:44

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