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English translation: usage depends on meaning (unique vs generic)

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GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
English term or phrase:indefinite article + jobs
English translation:usage depends on meaning (unique vs generic)
Entered by: vixen
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06:00 Oct 19, 2004
English to English translations [PRO]
Linguistics / grammar/articles
English term or phrase: article + jobs
In an English course book (The New Cambridge English Course, Practice 1, p11), I read the sentences:

"Sam is twenty-seven. He works in a bank as assistant manager. He is good looking, but he is not a very nice man."

My question: Why is the indirect article not used before "assistant manager"? Normally we use indirect articles before jobs, don't we? Or is there a mistake in the book?
Thanks for your explanations in advance.
stra
Local time: 15:58
usage depends on meaning
Explanation:
If I remember correctly from my university days, the indefinite article must be used with jobs when it does not indicate a unique position. The indefinite article is not used when the job referred to is unique within the context.

Within an English context, you could say that Blair is prime-minister, because there's only one prime-minister in England.
Within a European context, you could say that Blair is a prime-minister, because there are other prime-ministers as well.

So, your sentence is probably correct. He works in a bank as assistant manager implies that he is the only assistant manager in the bank. This makes perfect sense, because there is probably only one manager and one assistant manager. However, if he were one of the clerks, you would have to say: He works in a bank as a clerk.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 4 hrs 32 mins (2004-10-19 10:32:22 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Similarly, if there is more than one assistant manager, the indefinite article should be used.
Selected response from:

vixen
Greece
Local time: 14:58
Grading comment
Thanks to all who answered, especially to Derek and vixen, whom I'm giving the points because his (or her?) answer was more detailed. After some research on this topic I know Montefiore's answer is not acceptable in this form.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
3 +9the indefinite article is optional
Montefiore
4 +4usage depends on meaning
vixen
3 +2title v. career
Derek Gill Franßen


Discussion entries: 1





  

Answers


5 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +9
the indefinite article is optional


Explanation:
It's not an indirect, but an indefinite article. And I was taught that more often than not it was optional. I am not aware of any rule for using the indefinite article with jobs definition/description, but that may mean that I wasn't taught everything:) I apologize in advance for any impression of ignorance one may get from my statements. The articles are a constant bane of my existence:) I try to peacefully coexist with them, whenever possible.

Another, more likely possibility is that your original text is far from perfect.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 7 mins (2004-10-19 06:08:05 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Also, in certain contexts (such as techical-engineering) the articles are often omitted. It\'s true. It\'s the kind of language that the engineers speak. And other technically oriented people...

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 9 mins (2004-10-19 06:09:50 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Another thing that I was taught is that when something is spoken of in a very general sense, one doesn\'t have to use an article - for instance, the job in question, \"assistant manager,\" is a very generic notion.

Montefiore
United States
Local time: 04:58
Works in field
Native speaker of: Russian

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Henry Hinds: With and without "an" would both sound OK to me.
19 mins
  -> yes, agreed - thank you

agree  Pike
44 mins
  -> thank you

agree  Tony M: Presence or absence of indef. art. can also change implied meaning here: 'as an xx' can suggest that there are several 'xxs', and he works as one of them; without the article, the implication is that he is maybe the ONLY xx there. Nothing wrong with text!
1 hr
  -> true; thanks, Dusty

agree  Marie Scarano: also agree wtih Dusty's point. The sentence is not so incorrect as it is ambiguous.
1 hr
  -> exactly; thank you

agree  mportal: and I also agree with Dusty
2 hrs
  -> thank you

agree  airmailrpl: and with Dusty
4 hrs
  -> thank you

disagree  vixen: I don't think the indefinite article is optional. I do agree with Dusty, though. See also my own answer below.
4 hrs
  -> Ok, thanks

agree  Tehani
5 hrs
  -> thank you

agree  Olga B
8 hrs
  -> thank you

agree  Java Cafe: Ditto to Dusty.
23 hrs
  -> thank you

agree  Mario Marcolin: With Dusty. Sam may well be the only assistant manager
1 day 30 mins
  -> thank you
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +2
title v. career


Explanation:
After giving this some thought, the indefinate article may be left off because the author was thinking of this particular person's job title, in which case one definately would leave off the indefinate article. I don't know if there is actually a rule about this, but it is my feeling.
Example: "He works as a doctor." versus "He works as head surgeon of the department X." :-)

Derek Gill Franßen
Germany
Local time: 13:58
Works in field
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in category: 12

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Melanie Nassar : defin*i*tely my feeling too, in this case. Here it is used as a job title, for all practical purposes. I'm not sure if title vs. career hits the nail on the head though, as much as one vs. several.// Meine Erfahrung: Man lernt nie aus. :-)
4 hrs
  -> Of course, "definitely"; I always do that - it's like a tick! When will I finally learn?! ;-)

agree  RHELLER: this is his title, not his job, (he is assistant manager - not necessary to say he is a/the assistant manager)
7 hrs
  -> Hi back (from the other post) and thanks very much! :-)
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +4
usage depends on meaning


Explanation:
If I remember correctly from my university days, the indefinite article must be used with jobs when it does not indicate a unique position. The indefinite article is not used when the job referred to is unique within the context.

Within an English context, you could say that Blair is prime-minister, because there's only one prime-minister in England.
Within a European context, you could say that Blair is a prime-minister, because there are other prime-ministers as well.

So, your sentence is probably correct. He works in a bank as assistant manager implies that he is the only assistant manager in the bank. This makes perfect sense, because there is probably only one manager and one assistant manager. However, if he were one of the clerks, you would have to say: He works in a bank as a clerk.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 4 hrs 32 mins (2004-10-19 10:32:22 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Similarly, if there is more than one assistant manager, the indefinite article should be used.

vixen
Greece
Local time: 14:58
Native speaker of: Native in DutchDutch
PRO pts in category: 8
Grading comment
Thanks to all who answered, especially to Derek and vixen, whom I'm giving the points because his (or her?) answer was more detailed. After some research on this topic I know Montefiore's answer is not acceptable in this form.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Jörgen Slet
5 hrs
  -> Thanks, Jörgen

agree  Julie Roy: makes perfect sense
6 hrs
  -> Thanks, Julie

agree  J. Leo: here's a grammar website that explains it also: http://webster.commnet.edu/grammar/determiners/determiners.h...
9 hrs
  -> Thanks, James

agree  Deborah Workman: Nice job!
17 hrs
  -> Thanks a lot, Deborah
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