have an apple, <an?> orange, <an?> egg for lunch [repeated articles?]

kachibi

Senior Member
Chinese
Usually, when we give a list of singular nouns in a sentence that is started with an article (used to refer to the first noun), we can omit the subsequent articles for the following nouns in order to save space, the following are examples:

" I have an apple, orange, egg for lunch"

--In this sentence, only 1 article (an) is used to define "apple", "orange" and "egg" in order to save the other 2 "an" for orange and egg because both 3 share the same article. However, I wonder can I do the same for a sentence that contains different articles:

" I have an apple, orange, lemon (should be with "a"), egg and cake ("a" again) for lunch" OR
" I have an apple, orange, a lemon, an egg and a cake for lunch"?? << also pay attention here that the "an" for the orange is omitted here because it inherits the "an" for apple. I wonder if we are gonna place all respective articles back to these nouns, do we need to add back the "an" for orange as well in order to make it look consistent?
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    'A' and 'an' are the same word - the same article. The choice is purely on what the adjacent sound is. So if you had an egg and a lemon (yum yum), they both begin with the word 'a(n)', so you can take it out to the front: you ate an egg and lemon. Or to make it sound less strange a lunch, an orange and lemon. That is, a lemon and orange.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I'm sorry, but all these sentences leaving out articles do not work for me.
    If you tell me you had an apple, orange, and egg (remember I can't hear a comma), I'm left to wonder what an apple-orange is and how much uncountable egg you had (an omelet or scramble).
    You had an egg and lemon. And lemon what?
     

    kachibi

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    -engtangledbank:
    Yes, I am exactly talking about the adjacent sound. And I wonder if we can use either "A" or "AN" at the beginning to represents all hidden "A" and "AN" thereafter in a sentence (cause "A" and "AN" are different for they belong to different nouns).

    -Myridon:
    I learnt this usage from a dictionary. The sentence may create confusion if it is to be expressed orally. But how about in written words?
     

    Albionneur

    Banned
    Tatar & Russian
    Tomorrow I'm teaching a class on article usage. It's quite interesting to come across a discussion on articles between native speakers. So I'd like to ascertain whether we ARE to use the indefinite article both in front of the 1st word and the 2nd or whether just one article will do. I hope we can make a useful concerted effort to get to the truth.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    This AE speaker would use articles in front of all of them for the sake of parallel constructions.

    "I had an orange and a lemon for breakfast" sounds right. (It's not what I like to eat for breakfast, but the English aspect sounds right.)

    "I had an orange and lemon for breakfast" doesn't, since "lemon" is a countable noun. This structure would be correct for uncountable (mass) nouns: "I had an orange and grapefruit juice" or "I had an orange and toast." It would also work if you had some unspecified amount of lemon, but not if you had one lemon. So, you could say "I had an orange and watermelon for breakfast," since you presumably ate some unspecified amount of watermelon. You would not say "...and a watermelon," since a whole watermelon would be too large for one person to eat in one meal.

    Use the appropriate number if you had an amount other than one of something: "I had an orange and two eggs for breakfast." It would be "... and an egg" if you had one, "... and one egg" if you had one and wanted to emphasize the number for some reason, and "... and egg" if you had an unspecified amount such as a serving of scrambled eggs from a large bowl.

    So, I vote for "a," "an," or a number, as appropriate in each case, before countable breakfast foods. Use nothing for uncountable foods and indefinite quantities.
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    "Usually, when we give a list of singular nouns in a sentence that is started with an article (used to refer to the first noun), we can omit the subsequent articles for the following nouns in order to save space."

    Do you have a source for this? I don't think its true, at least not any more. It would be true with plural nouns but not singulars, eg:

    I had apples, oranges, cakes, and orange juice.
     

    Albionneur

    Banned
    Tatar & Russian
    "Usually, when we give a list of singular nouns in a sentence that is started with an article (used to refer to the first noun), we can omit the subsequent articles for the following nouns in order to save space."

    Do you have a source for this? I don't think its true, at least not any more. It would be true with plural nouns but not singulars, eg:

    I had apples, oranges, cakes, and orange juice.
    "Usually, when we give a list of singular nouns in a sentence that is started with a DEFINITE article (used to refer to the first noun), we can omit the subsequent articles for the following nouns in order to save space."

    "...many hundreds of them are scattered throughout the length and breadth of the moor..." (A.C. Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles)

    thermodynamics n (Physics / General Physics) (functioning as singular) the branch of physical science concerned with the interrelationship and interconversion of different forms of energy and the behaviour of macroscopic systems in terms of certain basic quantities, such as pressure, temperature, etc.

    "Fowls clucked and strutted in the stables ; and the coachhouses and sheds were over-run with grass." (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol)
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    I'm sorry but I still don't agree entirely. Much of the time that would be correct, but still:

    'At breakfast, I burned the fried egg and sausage.'

    still does not sound right if you were cooking them both separately, since it clearly implies they were part of the same dish to me.
     

    Albionneur

    Banned
    Tatar & Russian
    I agree something is missing in that sentence. Plus, two of my examples use of, and the last one has the nouns in the plural. The more I think of this, the more I get convinced indefinite articles ought to be put in front of each noun in the original poster's case, lest it should smack of a compound meal like fish and chips, for example.
     

    Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    Usually, when we give a list of singular nouns in a sentence that is started with an article (used to refer to the first noun), we can omit the subsequent articles for the following nouns in order to save space, the following are examples:

    " I have an apple, orange, egg for lunch"
    We can, but it want to speak or write standard English we may not. There's been a complicated discussion about different kinds of things that do and do not need an indefinite article (a or an), but the bottom line is that we do not omit an indefinite article in the second and letter elemetns of a series if we would use it when the element was first in the series or alone.

    I have an apple for lunch every day.:tick:
    I have an orange for lunch every day.:tick:
    I have an egg for lunch every day.:tick:
    I have an apple, an orange, and an egg for lunch every day.:tick:
    I have an apple, orange, and egg for lunch.:cross:
    I have a sandwich for lunch every day.:tick:
    I have a cup of coffee for lunch every day.:tick:
    I have a sandwich and a cup of coffee for lunch.:tick:
     

    kachibi

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    If you want a source, luckily, I have found the following from "Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English-The Living Dictionary":

    (pg.650)- fruit: 1 [C, U] something that grows on a plant, tree, or bush, can...

    Here, all 3 nouns are countable and singular, but we don't see there are "a" before each noun. So, what would account for this example?
     

    kachibi

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    so everyone is sure that when the singular nouns are linked by "and" and commas, articles (a and an) before each of them are needed right? But this rule doesnt apply on "or" and the article "the" right?
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I think it has something to do with whether the words are being used generically or specifically.

    "pg.650)- fruit: 1 [C, U] something that grows on a plant, tree, or bush, can..." :tick:

    "I'm re-planting my garden and I can't decide between a plant, tree, or bush." :cross:


    The second one sounds wrong to me.
     

    Welshie

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Dictionaries use abbreviations and write short, "newspaper-headline style" sentences to save space. I wouldn't use it as a guide for speaking good (or even correct) English, ironically.
     

    JuicyJew

    Senior Member
    English
    I think it's optional... A lot of people may prefer to say each "an", but I think that comes down to personal speaking style, it doesn't make the other wrong. The way I see it, when it's written there are commas, and when it's spoken we use pauses - we shape our speech for clarity just like all phrasing. It's not particularly confusing.

    Personally I would probably use all the "an" articles in the given examples when written. And I might omit them when speaking, depending on how fast I'm speaking or whatever's on my mind, how I'm emphasising the words.

    I'm unlikely to omit it when the sentence has 3 countable nouns, but, I'm more likely to omit them if it's a longer list. Eg.

    For my smoothie I put in a banana, orange, apple, guava, peach, and mango!

    Rather than a grammatical issue, I think it's about finding a nice rhythm. The longer a list, the more rhythm it has to it. Repitition is a very common way to create speech rhythm.
     
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    preppie

    Senior Member
    American English (Mostly MidAtlantic)
    Back to the original question:
    "I have an apple, orange, lemon (should be with "a"), egg and cake ("a" again) for lunch" is NOT what I would say.

    I would say:
    "I have an apple, an orange, a lemon, an egg, and cake" There would not be an article before cake unless I said a slice/piece of cake.

    I would say that it's because the first items are singular/countable but cake (unless it's a slice or a piece) is just some cake with no definitive dimensions.
     

    Albionneur

    Banned
    Tatar & Russian
    As I can see, articles is not really something that native speakers are all completely sure about, as sure as, say, Russians feel about all those idiosyncratic verb conjugations in their language.

    "For my smoothie I put in a banana, orange, apple, guava, peach, and mango!"

    I wasn't born in an English speaking country, but in the above sentence the article a
    seems to be out of tune with the whole thing. If the words in the list are looked upon as uncountable nouns, I doubt an article is needed here at all.
    BUT...
    I surely cannot, and I doubt I ever will be able to, put myself in your shoes of a native speaker and FEEL what it's like when you run these words through your mind, automatically placing articles in necessary positions. To virtually all non-native speakers, articles will remain a sort of a grey area. And thanks to great forums like this one, rules will become firmer when exceptions are discussed with due attention.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    As I can see, articles is not really something that native speakers are all completely sure about, as sure as, say, Russians feel about all those idiosyncratic verb conjugations in their language.

    "For my smoothie I put in a banana, orange, apple, guava, peach, and mango!"

    I wasn't born in an English speaking country, but in the above sentence the article a seems to be out of tune with the whole thing.
    I agree with you, Albionneur. If I don't put an article in front of all of them in this example I would leave "a" out entirely or use the word "some".
     

    preppie

    Senior Member
    American English (Mostly MidAtlantic)
    I see the smoothie entirely differently than what i ate. A smoothing is a concoction of 'stuff'. Unless I were giving a recipe I wouldn't put the adjective in front of the ingredients either.
     

    JuicyJew

    Senior Member
    English
    Well you can change smoothie back to what I ate for breakfast. I only changed it because I'm unlikely to eat all that for breakfast! Haha
     

    kachibi

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Actually my question is simple: whether omitting subsequent articles (a, an & the) for the 2nd and later nouns is grammatically correct in standardized English. It's great if there are some standard English users can tell me the NORMAL/ USUAL/ even CORRECT use of this kind of grammatical pattern in the written form. Well, just assume that each noun I suggest below is both SINGULAR and COUNTABLE:

    1) " I have an apple, an orange, a cake, a lemon, etc. << so, standard English users will normally add all articles back before all nouns right? And it is not acceptable to only use the forefront article to represent all the subsequent ones (and thereby get them hidden) right?

    2) How about the article "the"? It seems that "the" is an exception. Again, just assum that all nouns (for no reasons) have "the" before each of them: " The pencil, eraser, ruler and ball pen are brought by his mum" << Omitting subsequent "the-s" here is acceptable because the foremost "the" can be used to represent all following ones, am i right?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    It is interesting that in example 1, all nouns can be either count or non-count, while in example 2 they are all count and cannot be used as non-count. This may not have been your intention.

    In 1, the articles are necessary because you want them to be understood as countable (i.e., individual units). In 2, the subsequent articles are not necessary - the "the" specifies one of each of the following. I might personally add "all" between are and brought to remove any possible ambiguity (in other examples it might arise) although it is certainly not necessary. If you wrote "The apple, lemon, cake and orange were all brought by his mum" it would not be clear, without further context, whether they were count or non-count items.

    I'm not sure oif I answered your question completely, though!
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    1) " I have an apple, an orange, a cake, a lemon, etc. << so, standard English users will normally add all articles back before all nouns right? And it is not acceptable to only use the forefront article to represent all the subsequent ones (and thereby get them hidden) right?
    No, not all nouns, but countable nouns.
    I have an apple, an orange, a cake, a lemon, milk, tea, coffee, and beer. (I have some uncountable amount of those beverages.)
    I have an apple, an orange, a cake, a lemon, a glass of milk, a cup of tea, a thermos of coffee, and a keg of beer.
     

    kachibi

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thanks for both Julian's and Myridon's clearly explained answers. After reading through JulianStuart's answer, I have the following questions and I hope you can answer them one by one:

    1) So, now i understand that it is necessary not to omit articles for subsquent nouns because some nouns can be countable/ uncountable, and we need to add articles to specify whether they belong to the countable/ uncountable group<< is this idea correct?

    2) How about if some nouns are utterly COUNTABLE? Like you mentioned that "pencil", "eraser", "ball pen" and "ruler" are all completely countable. For this kind of noun, is omitting subsequent articles acceptable?

    3) the "the" specifies one of each of the following. <<So, you mean that it is grammatically and generically (when listing a row of nouns) correct that we can use "the" once and omit the subsequent "the-s"??

    4) If you wrote "The apple, lemon, cake and orange were all brought by his mum" it would not be clear, without further context, whether they were count or non-count items. << Can i say that this is (I mean not sure if each of these nouns is countable/ uncountable) "doomed" to be like this? Because even we allocate "the-s" back to all these nouns, it also cannot tell us they are countable/ uncountable (e.g. we can say: "the water"). So, i don't think it's really a defect (cause it has to be like this)?
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Thanks for both Julian's and Myridon's clearly explained answers. After reading through JulianStuart's answer, I have the following questions and I hope you can answer them one by one:

    1) So, now i understand that it is necessary not to omit articles for subsquent nouns because some nouns can be countable/ uncountable, and we need to add articles to specify whether they belong to the countable/ uncountable group<< is this idea correct?
    Generally, I would say this works as a rule of thumb.

    2) How about if some nouns are utterly COUNTABLE? Like you mentioned that "pencil", "eraser", "ball pen" and "ruler" are all completely countable. For this kind of noun, is omitting subsequent articles acceptable?
    I don't think it's quite as simple as that. If the countable nouns are similar in nature it works, but something like "She brought the pen, ruler and forklift to the back of the warehouse" sounds very odd. The mental image is that she carried the pen, the ruler and a forklift to the back of the warehouse, which is impossible.

    3) the "the" specifies one of each of the following. <<So, you mean that it is grammatically and generically (when listing a row of nouns) correct that we can use "the" once and omit the subsequent "the-s"??
    Sometimes.

    4) If you wrote "The apple, lemon, cake and orange were all brought by his mum" it would not be clear, without further context, whether they were count or non-count items. << Can i say that this is (I mean not sure if each of these nouns is countable/ uncountable) "doomed" to be like this? Because even we allocate "the-s" back to all these nouns, it also cannot tell us they are countable/ uncountable (e.g. we can say: "the water"). So, i don't think it's really a defect (cause it has to be like this)?
    If you make them plural it becomes much clearer. "The apples, lemons, cakes and oranges were all brought by his mom" is very clear to me. Once again, though, it sounds odd if the items are not similar, as in "The apples, lemons, cakes and hammers were all brought by his mom", which implies that the hammers are meant to be eaten.
     
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    kachibi

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Responding Jame's answer:
    1) I got it.

    2) If the countable nouns are similar in nature it works << you mean it works with "a", "and" and "the"??? So, the "ruler", "ball pen" and "pencil" are all stationery. Do you mean that I can write "I have a ruler, ball pen and pencil"???? Or you just refers this to the use of "the" instead of "a" and "and"?

    3) Okay!

    4) As you hinted in answer no.2, you said if the nouns are similar in nature it's OK to use "the" once. And you created two opposite examples: "She brought the pen, ruler and forklift to the back of the warehouse" and "The apples, lemons, cakes and hammers were all brought by his mom." << Actually, what's really wrong for these 2 sentences? Couldnt she really bring/ buy the 4 things together? What limitation does "the" impose on each of these 2 sentences? Or what special role does "the" play in the 2 examples?
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Responding Jame's answer:
    1) I got it.

    2) If the countable nouns are similar in nature it works << you mean it works with "a", "and" and "the"??? So, the "ruler", "ball pen" and "pencil" are all stationery. Do you mean that I can write "I have a ruler, ball pen and pencil"???? Or you just refers this to the use of "the" instead of "a" and "and"?
    To my way of thinking, "I have a ruler, ball pen and pencil" works as a group of things that might be used together so it sounds fine to me.

    3) Okay!

    4) As you hinted in answer no.2, you said if the nouns are similar in nature it's OK to use "the" once. And you created two opposite examples: "She brought the pen, ruler and forklift to the back of the warehouse" and "The apples, lemons, cakes and hammers were all brought by his mom." << Actually, what's really wrong for these 2 sentences? Couldnt she really bring/ buy the 4 things together? What limitation does "the" impose on each of these 2 sentences? Or what special role does "the" play in the 2 examples?
    I can't say for sure. I only know that it sounds odd to me to have dissimilar items grouped this way. Perhaps someone else can give you better information on the topic.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I agree with James about how strange those collections seem. However, one can contrive situations (i.e., a context) where they might occur together. The use of articles and commas seems pretty clearly laid out now and James was reacting, I think, to the weird-sounding list rather than the grammar!
     

    kachibi

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    yes, it is really a pity that English grammar does not specify the use of articles on this aspect...And it's not reliable enough to individualize the use,

    Maybe I just stick to the general use of it:

    so, gives "a" and "an" to each countable and singular noun, and I can use only one "the" to lead a list of nouns

    is it okay??
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    yes, it is really a pity that English grammar does not specify the use of articles on this aspect...And it's not reliable enough to individualize the use,

    ...?
    I am not sure what you are trying to say here :(
    I think the problem arises mainly because some nouns can be used as either countable or non-countable and it is complex to write in a way that specifies absolutely and then mix and match those types of nouns in lists with other items, some of which may require indefinite articles and some may require definite articles, depending on what YOU want to say and the context. I have a hard time imagining how I might be able to speak this precisely in a language that does not use articles at all:eek:
     

    kachibi

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    No worries, no special meaning at all :)
    I just mean if you read through all replies of this post, you will find some suggest adding back "a" and "an", some dont...so it's confusing....though the majorty votes for adding back :)
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    No worries, no special meaning at all :)
    I just mean if you read through all replies of this post, you will find some suggest adding back "a" and "an", some dont...so it's confusing....though the majorty votes for adding back :)
    I think it is due to their understanding of what you are trying to say - and I think you said you wanted to express the countable form*; for those that can be either countable or non-countable, you MUST use an article to specify one unit (or you would mean some of the uncountable form). For those that are never uncountable, you can list them with an article at the beginning of the list. It has to do with what you want to say. You would never be unclear if you used an article in front of each item - then you would use "some" if you meant the uncountable version : some cake vs. a cake vs. the cake (if it had been mentioned before).


    *From post#24
     

    kachibi

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Referring to Julian's last answer,
    I think i see your point. So the major function of articles "a" and "an" is to indicate clearly the countability of nouns to readers. And there isnt a rule to forbid listing a row of nouns with just 1 article at the beginning (as long as i can clearly tell readers the countability of each of the nouns).
    Is my idea above correct?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Referring to Julian's last answer,
    I think i see your point. So the major function of articles "a" and "an" is to indicate clearly the countability of nouns to readers. And there isnt a rule to forbid listing a row of nouns with just 1 article at the beginning (as long as i can clearly tell readers the countability of each of the nouns).
    Is my idea above correct?
    I would say it is. Obviously the clarity of the sentence will be influenced by the context (e.g., whether the object was in its countable or uncountable form - potato can mean a single countable potato or some amount of a potato dish) of what has been mentioned earlier.

    any replies for my last message?

    PS This is known as bumping and is frowned upon in this forum.
     
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