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I know that in German the words "ein" or "eine" are often dropped when referring to a person's occupation or role. Is this always the case from a grammatical point of view? Or is it a matter of style?

Er ist Lehrer.

Er ist ein Lehrer. (?)

I want to translate the following sentence, for example:

Samuel de Champlain was a talented map-maker, or cartographer.

Would it be correct to use the indefinite article here?

Samuel de Champlain war ein begabter Kartenzeichner, oder Kartograf.

Would it also be correct without the article? (It sounds wrong to me).

Samuel de Champlain war begabter Kartenzeichner, oder Kartograf.

Thank you very much.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

You can (and should) drop the article when you convey that someone is part of something. For instance, if you're saying that someone 'is teacher', you say that they belong to the group of teachers.
That rule does not only apply to profession, but also to nationality, origin, etc.

Er ist Lehrer.

You also drop the article in [verb + als]:

Er arbeitet als Lehrer.

In all other cases–in respect to your very example, that is professions–you must not drop the article. Thus, you're last sentence is wrong.

Er ist ein begabter Lehrer.

You can read more on this on

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