a book or <a> pen, a book and <a> pen

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zaffy

Senior Member
Polish
Can I omit the second article after a conjunction?

A: What present should I get him?
B: Get him a book or (a) pen?


There were a book and (a) pen on the table.
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Person B could omit "a" before pen. This is common.

    In the last sentence, you have used the plural verb "were", so you clearly regard them as two distinct items. Give each of them an article. If they formed a set, a single item, then you would say "There was a book and pen on the table".
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And what if the second noun is modified by an adjective? For example, 'I have a dog and (a) nice cat.'
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Keep the article then. It's usually omitted when the things go together closely: a knife and fork, a table and chair.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And how about the definite article 'the'? Can it be omitted or is it better to always repeat it?

    -The teachers and (the) students in our school don't tolerate any kind of violence.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    And how about the definite article 'the'? Can it be omitted or is it better to always repeat it?

    -The teachers and (the) students in our school don't tolerate any kind of violence.
    You can omit it, but this isn't at all the same situation.

    In your original sentence, you were mentioning the book and pen for the first time. The indefinite article serves as a form of introduction to the items, and it is better to give each its own introduction, and particularly so when using "there are..."/"there were..." where readers expect to be introduced to things.

    "The" might be used for things that have already been mentioned, so this degree of care is not needed, even with singular nouns. In your new sentence "the" has a different use, meaning all of them, or the people in general. It is usually taken to apply to all the nouns that follow, unless some other term is used to indicate otherwise, such as "The teachers and most of the students...".
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And is it possible to omit the indefinite article when the nouns require a different one, that is, 'a' or 'an' ?

    -Is it easy to draw out money from a bank or (an) account?
    - I had an apple and (a) banana for breakfast.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Whether you need "a" or "an" makes no difference to whether you can omit an article.

    In both of your examples (as is usually the case with a/an), it would be better to include both articles, but this is nothing to do with one being "a" and the other being "an".
     
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