I have rewritten a sentence as follows, and my cousin asked me why I didn't use any article before administrator/owner/creator/manager.

On the user profile page, I need to add a block showing the groups for which the user is administrator/owner/creator/manager.

I didn't find a satisfactory explanation, and I am wondering if not using the article is correct English.

Is not using the article before administrator/owner/creator/manager correct/acceptable English?
If the sentence is fine without the article, why is it possible to write it without an article?

  • I would tend to write "...the user is a(n) administrator/owner/creator/manager." But I am not completely sure it's necessary.
    – Walter
    Aug 2, 2013 at 12:03
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    If each group has only one administrator/owner/creator/manager, I would use the here. If the groups can have more than one administrator etc., I would use a(n). I definitely wouldn't leave the article out.
    – WendiKidd
    Aug 2, 2013 at 15:57
  • It's a style that is found in technical manuals and the like, so technical people are sometimes in the habit of randomly leaving them out. In this particular case, the writer is making a statement about a technical configuration, so is probably in the habit of doing this. It isn't correct grammar, however, although it may be acceptable. You'll often find it in recipes as well: Stir milk and eggs into flour. Beat mixture for 5 minutes until slightly lumpy. Bake 9 minutes in hot oven.
    – BobRodes
    Aug 5, 2013 at 4:29

1 Answer 1


According to Randolph Quirk et al.'s book on English grammar, structures like X is Y, where X is a noun describing the noun X are in "a copular relation". Y here is called a complement.

We put an indefinite article before complements in such structures if Y is not unique: "Mark is a programmer". However, if the complement names a unique role or task, we may use either a definite or a zero article: "The user is (the) administrator" (that would imply that there's only one administrator position); "John is (the) captain of the team."

P.S. Y may be a complement or an appositive noun phrase ("John, (the) captain of the team.").

  • 1
    While I have no problem with "John is captain of the team," I can't see myself saying "The user is administrator."
    – J.R.
    Aug 2, 2013 at 17:50
  • I too feel strange writing it. Maybe the word "administrator" implies non-uniqueness, and so it's more natural to use an article before it. Aug 3, 2013 at 3:46
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    In Italian I could say Sono programmatore. ("I am developer.") and that would not mean I am the only developer. I could even say that when somebody asks me "What is your job?" instead of "What is your job at Microsoft?"
    – apaderno
    Aug 22, 2013 at 10:25
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    @kiamlaluno Well, in Russian I could say either "I translator" or "Translator I", heeding not the articles (absent in Russian) nor the verb "to be" (not used in such sentences) nor the word order discipline (words may take any position they like). (0: Aug 23, 2013 at 10:00

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