Ask-A-Linguist Message Details
I have just bought a novel, Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.
There is a page about Jonathan Swift's life. There, I found a
sentence which I cannot analyze grammatically, no matter how
much I am scratching my head to come up with an answer. The
''At the age of thirty-one, Swift returned to Ireland as chaplain to a
To me, this sentence is 100% wrong grammatically. It should be:
''At the age of thirty-one, Swift returned to Ireland as A chaplain to
a lord justice.''
Here is my reason: ''chaplain'' cannot be used without an ''A'' in
front of it because it is in singular and an ''A'' is needed in front of
What do you think? Do you agree with me?
Thank you for taking the time to help me.
All the best
Following up on Dr. Rowe's response, I would note that saying that Swift `returned to Ireland as *a* chaplain to a Lord Justice' would strongly imply that that Lord Justice employed more than one chaplain at the same time, which, to put it mildly, would be extremely unusual!
Count nouns are count nouns, yes, and the distinction between count nouns and mass nouns is pretty basic in English grammar. But that doesn't mean that count nouns must always have explicit determiners occurring with them. In particular, count nouns referring to offices, positions, etc. routinely occur without determiners in the kind of situation you're mentioning:
`While serving as President/Senator, Obama ...'
`Speaking just for myself, I might agree with you, but speaking as Treasurer, I would have to point out ...'
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