A question from M. Mbewe in Zambia:
What is the difference between 'Acting as Chief Executive Officer' and 'Acting Chief Executive Officer'? This is in relation to office duties.
Acting / Acting as
Susan Fearn answers:
So first of all, let me explain that the Chief Executive Officer is the person at the head of a company. But you might not have actually heard this said very much, and that's because it's such a mouthful that speakers of English often just use the initials - 'CEO', and that's true of both speech and writing.
I've got a couple of examples from BBC news stories. Here's one from October 2006:
"Streiff resigns as CEO of Airbus"
The chief executive of troubled plane maker Airbus has resigned...
And here's another:
"CEO swaps hedge fund for charity" (Sep 2006)
The chief executive of the world's biggest hedge fund, is to step down to focus on private philanthropy...
But anyway, the question here isn't 'What is a chief executive officer?' it's about Acting Chief Executive Officers. And here's an example:
A friend of mine, who's the CEO of a charity, recently took a few months off to have a baby - she went on maternity leave. And while she was away, someone else took her job for a few months. That person had an official job title, Acting CEO - Acting Chief Executive Officer.
Now acting here has nothing to do with Hollywood - it just means being temporarily but officially in a job. And the person that normally does that job is away - perhaps they've left and a permanent replacement hasn't been found. You can be an acting anything, pretty much: an Acting Manager, Acting Head, Acting Editor, but your role is recognized. So in my friend's case, the Acting CEO got the job title, the money and the recognition.
She was lucky! Sometimes, a company might not find a replacement immediately, or perhaps not find one at all. And some poor person still has to do all the extra work. That person might be acting as the CEO - they're doing the work but not necessarily getting the recognition, the pay or the official job title - they may or may not be. So, two examples:
Maurizio is the Acting CEO
That means he gets the official title, the money, the recognition. And he's also doing the work - he's acting as the CEO.
On the other hand, poor old Maria, in her company, is acting as the CEO but she's not getting the job title or the extra money; she's not officially the Acting CEO.
Now a quick word about a related phrasal verb 'act up'. If you fill an acting position, it's normally a level above your usual job; you're acting up. So, we can say, for instance:
Maurizio is acting up while Glenda's away.
You have to be careful with this verb though. Like many English phrasal verbs it's got more than one meaning. 'Act up' can also mean 'misbehave', as in:
"My children have been really acting up today."
And if you say: "My boss is acting up" - it could have either meaning!
Susan Fearn has taught English in Europe, Japan and China and has made programmes for BBC Learning English in the past. She is currently teaching English for Journalism and Public Relations at the University of Westminster in London.
Audio - Download the answer (mp3 - 1.1 mb)
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