Repetition of the Article

The three articles in English are ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’. It’s not merely enough to know what they are but more importantly where and how they are to be used. Such felicity comes nature to a native learner but for all other non-English speaking persons, it’s imperative to be aware of the guidelines and of applying the rules to have a better understanding of English Article Use.

Let’s then consider the rules for Repetition of Article

1.  Please note the below mentioned examples:

e.g.: I have a black and white horse. (Single partly black and partly white horse)

I have a black and a white horse. (Two separate horses)

The Indefinite article “a” in the second example has been repetitive as many times as there are adjectives, which alters the meaning.

Hence, if two or more Adjectives are used for the same Noun, then the Article is to be used only before the first Adjective.

But if the Adjective refers to two different objects, then the articles needs to be separately for the two Adjectives.

e.g.: I have a blue pen and a red pen. (If I possess two pens in two different shades)

I have a blue and red pen. (If the single pen is in double shade)


2. Hence, if two or more Nouns refer to the same person or thing using the conjunction ‘And’, Article is to be used only once before the first Noun.

But if the Nouns in the sentence refer to different people, then separate articles need to be used.

e.g.: Gandhi was a great Orator and Statesman. (One and the same person)

e.g.: There were in the quorum of the House a great historian and a great parliamentarian. (Two separate individuals)

e.g.: The President and Secretary cut the ribbon. (Implying 1 person holding both the posts)

As compared to:

e.g.: The President and the Secretary cut the cake. (Two people jointly cut the cake)


3. The repetition of Articles may be avoided by using a plural Noun.

E.g.: Instead of writing

The first and the second poem,

We can write:

The First and second poems.        

4. In expressing a comparison, if the two Nouns refer to the same person or thing, the Article is used only before the first Noun.

e.g.:       He is a better orator than statesman.

              He is a better doctor than administrator.

But if they refer to different persons, Articles must be used separately with each Noun.

e.g.: He would make a better Professor than an Engineer. (Between the two prospective professions of a Professor and an Engineer, he would be better suited to be former, rather than latter)


Consider the following examples:

1.       I will bring a pen, eraser or pencil.

2.       I will bring a pen, an eraser or a pencil.


Though in informal speech both are used, yet from a strictly grammatical point of view, only one of them is correct.

Correct Answer: Example 2

·  The answer is justified on the touchstone of a simple rule that where all the items listed, when considered individually, take same form of article (either ‘a’ / ‘an’/ ‘the’) then that form of article can be used with the first item without any repetition with the following item(s), but if the items being listed take different forms of article then each item will take its own separate article.

Similarly between the examples:

3.       I will select a black, yellow or red shirt

4.       I will select a black, a yellow or a red shirt

Example 3 shall be deemed correct.

English Grammar and Composition

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