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Use of the indefinite article before proper names

§ 201. The indefinite article is necessary:


1. When the person mentioned belongs to the family bearing the same name:


Mrs Tulliver had been a Miss Dodson...

No daughter of the house could be indifferent of having been born a Dodson, rather than a Gibson or a


2. When nothing is known about the person mentioned but the name.


This usage corresponds to the Russian word «некий».

There’s a young American girl staying at the hotel. She’s a Miss Render.


3. When an originally proper name comes to be used as a common noun (usually as a result of metonymy or metaphor), as in:


This man doesn’t know a Rubens from a Rembrandt (pictures of these painters).

There is in Gary’s work the naturalness and zest of a Defoe, the generosity of a Fielding (like that of

Defoe, like that of Fielding).

Everybody isn’t a Mary Pickford (a film star like Mary Pickfbrd).

He was a Crusoe with no need to look for footprints in the sand (a man like Crusoe).

‘Have a cigar.’ ‘If it is a real Havana.’


4. When some phase, aspect, or state ismeant, whether it refers to a living being or a geographical place:


John was inside, a very different John from the lad he had known seven years ago.

And now here was Gulliver’s girl Barbara, that mournful-eyed waif from an unhappy France.

So at night Castle dreamt of a South Africa reconstructed with hatred.


(Compare with the same use of the indefinite article before unique and non-count nouns.)

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